“I bet I can untangle you.”
At an airport baggage claim, Penny Darling looks up from her knotted mess of ear buds to find the sexiest hunk of man she’s ever seen. He’s got a military haircut, a scar through his eyebrow, and he’s rocking a pastel pink dress shirt like only a real man can. But Penny is on a man-free diet so she leaves the airport without succumbing to his delicious double-entendres…or his dreamy dimples.
PI Russ Macklin can’t take his eyes off Penny. As she sashays out of the airport with hips swaying and curls bouncing, he suspects they may share more than just sweltering chemistry. That suitcase she’s rolling along behind her? It looks a lot like his.
Because it is.
When he tracks her down, he holds her bag hostage in exchange for a date. Their night begins with margaritas and ends in urgent care, and Russ proves that Cosmo’s theory about a very particular type of orgasm was oh-so-wrong.
In Penny, Russ finds a small-town sweetheart with a very naughty side. For the first time ever, he’s thinking about picket fences. Penny finds in Russ a loving, caring man who understands the power of massaging showerheads.
But Russ is only in Port Flamingo for a week. They agree it’ll be a fling and nothing more. Because really, they can’t fall ass-over-teakettle in love just like that…
99k words. HEA. Dual POV. No cheating.
Featuring a big drooly dog named Guppy.
Welcome to Florida. God bless the Sunshine State.
The place is dismal, except for her. On the walls are 1980s tourism posters, rippling with the humidity. All the guys have Magnum, P.I. mustaches, and all the women look like extras from Baywatch. She’s a vision in the middle of all of it, an oasis at the goddamned baggage claim. I circle the clumps of old people bumping into each other with walkers, like slow-motion bumper cars. As I get closer, I see her face. Her freckles, her slightly shiny pink lips. Her breasts, which are fucking beautiful. But her expression, it isn’t beautiful. It’s seriously pissed. Nostrils flared, teeth set, jaw clenched.
In her hands is a whole big tangle of ear buds, and maybe a phone charger. A big knot of cords, like a wad of cold pasta.
I get closer. Not too close, because I don’t want to be that guy, but close enough to see the small starfish necklace dangling from her neck, and close enough to smell something warm, and sweet. Familiar. Vanilla, maybe. Whatever it is, it’s fucking delicious.
On the wall behind her is a big banner. It’s got a faded old cartoon flamingo, flapping his wings and grinning. Underneath is the caption:
WELCOME TO PORT FLAMINGO! HOME OF THE FIRST AIR CONDITIONER!
No shit. Because it’s hot, and I don’t mean like ordinary summertime hot. I mean hot like the time the sauna malfunctioned at my gym and turned all the drywall in the locker room into oatmeal. She doesn’t look hot at all though. She looks cool, and soft, and beautiful. Just the thing I need. Like a vodka soda after a long fucking day.
I set my shoulder bag at my feet and take off my suit jacket. Her braid comes down over one shoulder, the curl at the bottom nestling into her cleavage. I roll up my sleeves. “I bet I can untangle you.”
She looks up at me. Her eyes are deep blue and sparkling. A smile starts to pinch her cheeks. The end of the charger swings between us. “I’m okay. Got myself into this mess, got to get myself out of it.”
“Sometimes two is better than one.”
She smacks her lips at the cords. “Sometimes.” She pulls hard on the plug end, making the wires tighten even more. “You’d think I’d learn to keep that little plastic box that comes with these, but oh no, every—” She tugs. “—single.” Tugs again. “—time.”
Granted, she’s not exactly in need of rescue from a burning building, but no way am I going to stand here and watch her struggle, no fucking way. Without another word, I start undoing the end of the tangle that’s nearest me, and I watch that smile of hers get bigger. She doesn’t look at me, but I see a dimple, and she bites her lip.
Still focused on the knot, she says, “Let me guess. You’re not from around here, are you?”
Can’t imagine what gave me away. Maybe the fact that I’m the only guy in the building wearing slacks and actual shoes. “Here on business.”
She looks me up and down. “What kind of business? FBI?”
Fuck. Not the first conversation I want to have, definitely not. Also, I don’t know a single fed who wears pants this nice. “Private business.”
“Hmmm.” She eyes me more mischievously. “Tall, dark, and a military haircut. Something tells me you’re not here to do some competitive bass fishing. “
Oh man. Cute. Really cute. “No, I’m not.”
Slowly, the tangle comes undone, until we’re in the middle together. Reminds me of that scene in Lady and the Tramp.
But before I can say anything more—like, for instance, I’m down for 20 questions, as long as it’s over a drink—the buzzer on the carousel roars to life, as loud as a tornado siren. The crush of people starts to tighten around the conveyor. She winds the three sets of ear buds and the cord around her palm. From the pocket of my bag, I take out the plastic case that came with my ear buds and hand it over. “There.”
She laughs through her nose. “I’ll be okay.”
“I insist.” I press it into her hand, and her eyes meet mine.
“I’ll bet you do.” She looks away as a blush covers her cheeks.
The bags start to rumble off the conveyor. For one long second, she watches me, smiling. Sizing me up. The little curls around her face tremble in the air conditioning, and I’m about to say You, me, a pitcher of margaritas, tonight when she looks away and hoists her purse up on her shoulder.
“That’s my bag,” she says. “I should get going. Thanks for…untangling me.”
She steps away and threads her way between a handful of old ladies in walkers. I know I should help her, I know I should grab her bag, but holy fuck look at that body.
She grabs her bag herself and flips up the handle.
“Give me your number. Let me take you out for dinner.”
Her smile dissolves into a scowl. “You married?”
I shake my head slowly. “I’m a lot of things, but married definitely isn’t one of them.”
Shake my head again. “Nope.”
She takes her starfish charm between thumb and forefinger and loops the chain over her lip. “Under any restraining orders? Involved in a complicated love triangle that your Match.com profile describes as an open marriage? Divorced five times and counting? Polyamorous?”
Whoa. This girl’s got to find a new dating pool, stat. “Promise. I’m Russ, and what you see is what you get.”
Zip-zip-zip goes her necklace.
“Just a drink.” I lift my hands out between us, to say C’mon. “Maybe dinner, if I make the cut.”
She blinks hard a few times and she drops her necklace charm. “I’m sorry. You’re sweet, but I can’t.”
Well, fuck it. The first time I try to get back in the saddle in ages and the goddamn thing slides right down onto the ground again. I respect it though. I don’t want to overdo this, so I give her a final nod and clear my throat. “Had to try.”
She swallows hard. “I’m glad you did.”
And she’s gone. As she goes, her hips sway with her dress. She works that sashay, as my aunt says, like a fucking pro. She looks back over her shoulder, only once, as she walks through the sliding doors. I give her a wink.
And she fucking winks back.
She takes a left out of the door, which means she isn’t gone yet. Not by a long shot. The architecture does me a favor, and I get to watch her sashay right past the floor-to-ceiling windows. I couldn’t take my eyes off of her, not even if I wanted to. She smiles at the sidewalk without looking up, and laughs a little. Like she knows I’m watching her and is feeling pretty good about it.
God, what a cutie. And what a bummer. She was fucking sexy, she seemed sweet, and there was something about her that was up to no good. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but it was somewhere between the bikini top and I’m glad you did. But the spark wasn’t all we had in common. I realize, as she finally disappears from view, she also has a bag that looks just like mine.
Medium-sized black Samsonite. Sensible, dependable. Number One Amazon Bestseller in Luggage.
But that couldn’t be my bag, I think to myself as I turn back toward the conveyor. Couldn’t be.
It was. Twenty minutes later, I’m the only guy standing by the carousel, and there’s a single black bag going around and around in front of me. It’s exactly the same as mine, except it’s overstuffed and has a pink puff of yarn tied to the handle. Same color as her bikini top and literally hanging by a thread.
It slides to a stop, and the yarn ball swings off the side of the carousel. Tick-tock, tick-tock.
A rattle from the center of the conveyor sounds promising—I was early connecting through Atlanta, so my bag had to be the first one on—but no dice. What comes off the conveyor isn’t a bag at all, but instead one of the baggage guys in big set of protective earphones and a reflective vest. He crawls up through the flap and pokes his head out. He wipes his forehead on his bare leathery shoulder and then looks from me to the bag and back again. “Nice pom-pom, man,” he says and backtracks down the hole.
I glance around for some airport help on this, but all I see is a handwritten sign at the baggage claim desk. Will Return On Monday!
As I take hold of the bag, I notice it’s got not one but three “LIFT WITH CAUTION” tags: the first one new, the second one beat up, and the third one halfway shredded, all together the way people keep lift tickets from ski areas. I give it a hoist. The thing is so heavy it makes me grunt like I’m doing a dead lift. With a two-handed lug, I yank it off the conveyor and set it on the ground, wheels down.
Squeezing the roller handle, I pull it up…and it snaps off right in my hand. The arms stick up from the suitcase like the tines of a fork.
I clench my eyes shut and think back to “the most helpful critical review” from Amazon. “Looks like every other bag on the planet. Sh**ty handle.”
Touché. But it is what it is. Which is her bag, hopefully.
I wheel it along to a bank of benches, by some old beat-up phone booths, lining the far wall. I open up the ID pouch and read:
125 E. BEACH POINT DRIVE
PORT FLAMINGO, FL 34102
I bite down on my gum and groan. How cute is that name? Jesus Christ, come on. Penny Darling. What’s more, it’s not a business card or typed up like mine, but written by hand. Her writing is sweet, pretty, and feminine, with big plump letters written in bright pink marker that’s bled into the plastic cover, so they’ve got a haze around them like neon lights. And there, at the bottom.
It might not be my smoothest move, but I’ll take it. I pull my phone from my pocket and give her a call. As I wait for the ringtone, I decide to hell with suave and understated. I want her, and I need her to know it.
But then in my ear I hear, “Mobile Network Temporarily Unavailable.”
Goddamned Verizon, jamming up my plans. So I try to text her instead.
This is Russ.
From the airport.
I’ve got your bag and I think you’ve got mine.
How about that drink?
I hit send, and I’m answered immediately with a row of red exclamation points and four repetitions of NOT DELIVERED. What. The. Fuck.
Then I noticed my cell service flips over from 1 bar, to Roaming, to Searching for service…
I pull my hot pack of gum from my sweaty pocket and take out a second piece. The gum is weirdly melted even before I put it in my mouth.
The options now are pretty simple: I could touch base with the guy who hired me to come down here to the land that Verizon forgot or…
I think about those tan lines, the curve of her hips. That bikini. The glisten on her rosy lips. The way she wrinkled her nose when she smiled.
Why is this even a goddamned question? It’s four o’clock on a Saturday. A beautiful woman is on East Beach Point Drive with all my stuff. And somewhere in this town, I’ll bet there’s a beachside bar with a pitcher of margaritas with our names on it.
From New York Times bestselling author, J. Daniels, comes a sexy new STANDALONE novel.
Riley Tennyson has made a huge mistake.
At least, that’s what she keeps telling herself.
Showing up to her brother’s wedding pissed off and newly single, Riley seeks comfort in solitude and an open bar, until the gorgeous and irresistibly charming CJ Tully makes her a better offer―a wild night with the master of smooth-talking where nothing is off limits.
Riley does what any single woman would do, and a connection is made. One neither one of them can ignore. But when she comes home to the boyfriend she no longer thought she had, Riley buries her secret and begs CJ to do the same.
Forget about each other. It was a mistake. That’s all it was… right?
Desires are hidden. Distance is kept. Until one night CJ makes the ultimate sacrifice, and Riley can no longer avoid the man she can’t stop thinking about.
Not with him sleeping down the hall…
I jerk my chin at the guy standing at the security booth after he speaks, then throw a look of appreciation at the bouncer who led me over here before he steps away.
“Name’s Mark. I’m running things tonight. It’s good to have you,” the guy says.
We shake hands.
“Yeah. Don’t mention it,” I reply.
He looks around the venue and gestures. “Packed joint tonight. Shouldn’t get too crazy with this band and the crowd it’s bringing out, but we never wanna risk it. It’s good having backup.”
“How many of us you got?” I ask him over the music when the band starts playing, leaning closer to hear his response.
“You and another guy who’s already here. He’s hanging out up by the stage. Plus a bunch of our guys.” He hooks his thumb at the floor to ceiling windows along the front of the building, adding, “I got some uniforms on the street keeping that shit under control in case people get tossed out.”
I nod, liking what I’m hearing.
The Red Door isn’t the biggest venue I’ve worked security on, but it’s big enough. Managing this shit alone can present a challenge. And by the looks of it, it’s a sold out show.
More eyes we got on the crowd, the better.
“You run into any problems yet?” I ask.
The guy shakes his head. “Nah. Just normal shit. People trying to sneak in their own booze,” he replies, glancing at the door where everyone is filing in. “Confiscated it. No issues. Everything else seems to be running smooth.”
“Good,” I say when I meet his eyes. “I’ll keep near the back since the other guy’s covering the front. I’ll come to you if I run into any problems.”
“Sounds good, man.”
We exchange another hand shake, then I step away and move through the crowd.
I stop near the center of the room and stay to the back like I said so I can have full view of the floor that’s packed with bodies, some keeping position and others moving away from me, pushing to get closer to the stage.
Bringing my arms across my chest, I stand tall and do a sweep of the place. I’ve been here before so I know the layout.
There’s a bar to the right of where I’m standing, stretching the length of the wall. Restrooms are behind me. Other than the hallway leading to the rooms behind the stage where bands hang out, there’s isn’t much that isn’t visible. Plus, it’s one level, standing room only, so I don’t gotta worry about another floor I need to cover.
Should be an easy gig.
I do shit like this on the side for the extra cash. Venues hosting concerts are always looking for cops who are willing to come out and beef up security. We stay in civilian clothes so we blend in, and unless I’m having to act on something, I typically get out without anyone knowing I’m a cop.
Easy money. Ain’t nothing wrong with that.
I look back to the dance floor.
The lights are dimmed. Red and blue strobe lights positioned on the ceiling illuminate the crowd, along with the bright, white lights shining from the stage. Visibility is good.
Another plus. I worked a few of these where it wasn’t and that only presented problems.
But here, I can see faces. Can see other shit going on too if someone’s dumb enough to try something too.
I anticipate it. Events like this always bring out some of the stupidest motherfuckers. Which is exactly why they like having us work these things.
Security can only do so much.
I’m three songs into the set when the beat picks up. The bass vibrates along the floor. I feel it pulsing in my feet.
The faster rhythm stirs the crowd and shifts them around. More bodies gather and move closer to the stage, jumping up with their fists in the air and belting out lyrics, drawing people away from the bar. Others stay toward the back where there’s room to dance.
That’s where I’m looking, and that’s where I see her.
I blink. My eyes refocus. Then I stare at waves the color of sand flowing down the back of a tiny thing swaying to the music.
Shirt tied off at the waist. Lower back showing. Hips shaking in some tight as shit black jeans. Ass looking fucking incredible.
She reaches above her, bends her elbows and rakes her fingers through her hair, lifting it off her neck as her body keeps moving in ways I feel straight in my cock, then after letting her arms drop, she looks toward the bar with eyes searching, giving me full view of her profile.
My chest grows motherfucking tight.
I blink again, thinking I’m seeing things.
Riley Tennyson wets her lips.
I’m not seeing things.
Jesus Christ. This is just what I need.
Working this shit, needing to stay focused and eyes alert to all bodies in this room and now I know for damn sure that’s not gonna be happening, meaning this gig just went from easy to really fucking complicated.
There’s only one body I’m interested in keeping eyes on and it’s the one making my dick hard.
Riley Tennyson is gonna fucking kill me.
I pull in a deep breath, watching that sweet face get ripped out of view when Riley looks toward the stage again.
She keeps dancing. Keeps shaking that perfect ass and swaying those perfect hips, fingers curling in and lifting those long waves again, also perfect.
Every part of her. Every fucking inch.
And I’m not even considering what she’s got going on in the front. Shouldn’t even be considering it—we’re friends, she’s taken, and I’m not a fucking asshole—but that didn’t stop me all day when I couldn’t keep those spectacular tits off my mind, even going a step further into crazy when I shared that with her through a text.
I need to quit now. Stop this shit.
I can avoid it. I got options.
Switch with the guy hanging up by the stage, hoping Riley keeps her location. Or fuck it. Just pull out of this gig all together. Make up some excuse. I don’t need the cash.
I don’t need to be staring.
I sure as fuck don’t need to be getting hard right now.
I got options. Just need to pick one.
Real fucking simple.
I breathe in deep again, letting it out slowly. And I do this staring at her.
Only at her.
And the more staring I do the more I start to notice, like how she seems to be out there dancing alone, not with another person or a group of friends she came with. People around her are keeping to themselves or appearing to be together, throwing their arms around each other or sharing looks. Acting friendly. Just not with her.
Riley isn’t meeting anyone’s eyes. She’s not trying to talk to anyone. She’s in her own little world.
She’s here alone.
He made her come to this shit alone.
Anger fills me. My jaw flexes while the muscles in my arms and shoulders start locking up.
My choice of options just grew by one.
Instead of charging through the crowd which, no lie, is exactly what I want to be doing right now, I reach into the back pocket of my jeans and pull out my phone. I shoot out a quick text.
Me: Tell me he’s here.
Lifting my eyes, I watch as Riley pauses mid ass-shake, slaps her back pocket, tugs out her phone and brings it in front of her. Her head tilts down, then a second later it’s lifting and she’s searching all around where she’s standing, peering around people and standing taller. She finds me when she finally twists around, head first and then body following.
Her lips part. Her blue eyes go round, flames burning me up like they always do.
Riley starts moving my way and my eyes lower, first to her mouth, watching the slow smile twist across it and take shape.
She looks happy to see me. I shouldn’t put stock into that but I do. It’s what I want.
Then my eyes keep dropping and I get full view of her tits. Her full, heavy, perfect fucking tits. Sitting high behind her tight white shirt and bouncing with her steps.
My new friend has tits like that. And by the looks of it, she didn’t bother putting on a bra either.
What the fuck did I do in a previous life to deserve this kind of torture?
“Hey. I didn’t know you were coming to this,” Riley says all sweet sounding when she reaches me, stopping close and offering me a smile. Sweat gathers on her brow and in the hollow dip in her throat. She shoves her phone away and questions, “Why are you standing all the way back here? Don’t you wanna get closer so you can see the band?”
“Working,” I tell her, lifting my eyes before I punch a hole through my jeans. I tuck my phone into my back pocket, adding, “Trust me. I can see plenty from where I’m standing.”
Ain’t that the fucking truth.
Riley blinks, then looks to my chest. “You’re not wearing your uniform,” she observes.
I squint at her mouth.
I got what she said, but I can barely hear her over the music. I don’t like that.
I want to hear her.
“Come on.” Grabbing her elbow, I pull Riley with me to the back corner of the room, stopping beside the hallway that leads to the restrooms and crowding the wall.
It’s as far from the speakers as I can get her unless I take her outside, and I’m not sure I want to do that.
Only `cause I know I’ll want to leave with her. Meaning I absolutely want to do that.
Shoulder pressing to the wall, I release her elbow after tugging Riley close. I pull my arms across my chest. “Not typically something I wanna advertise when I’m staying undercover,” I say in response to her observation.
“Oh.” She looks up at me, smiling and lifting her shoulders with a jerk. “Cool,” she says.
I can see Riley better where we’re standing now. The hallway light is shining on her, making her skin glow.
I look her over.
She wearing more makeup than I’ve ever seen her in. Black lines her eyes and her lashes are darker. Thicker too.
I like that.
Her cheeks are flushed from the dancing she was doing. That combined with the whatever she’s got on her face is hiding her freckles from me.
I don’t like that. But I don’t tell Riley. I keep looking.
Red lips, full and shiny. Cock sucking lips. I know that from experience.
Shit. Don’t go there. I focus on her eyes again.
Blue and black, fading out to grey. Like a storm coming…
“You totally still look like a cop,” Riley shares, jarring my focus. The corner of her mouth twitches. “You’re not fooling anyone, CJ Tully.”
My brows raise. “Yeah?”
She nods, laughing. “You look scary and pissed off. Smile a little.”
I don’t smile. Not even when she amps hers up and gives it to me, pairing it with another soft giggle.
I get straight to the point with her because getting off point with Riley is gonna lead to this shit getting even more complicated, and fuck, I’ve looked enough tonight to run the risk of major fucking complications.
Plus, she’s laughing. Smiling. Looking like she’s thinking the same things I’m thinking.
Get to the fucking point, Tully.
“You gonna answer my question?” I ask.
Her brow furrows. “What question?”
“I asked you if he was here,” I remind her.
“Oh.” Nodding, Riley looks behind her in the direction of the bar, then meets my eyes again. “Yeah, he went to get a drink. He doesn’t really want to be here. I kinda dragged him out.”
“Why’d you need to drag him out?”
Riley tilts her head. “Because… he doesn’t really want to be here?” she repeats slowly, looking puzzled. “I just told you. He doesn’t like The Killers.”
“Yeah, babe. So.”
She straightens her head, but her eyes narrow as if she’s thinking hard. “You’ve lost me,” she shares.
“Forget it,” I mumble, looking away, knowing I got no business getting up in her shit the way I’m doing. I need to back off.
“No. What? Tell me.” Riley reaches out and places her hand on my forearm.
I look down and watch her black painted fingers wrap around and curl under. I feel them squeeze.
Our eyes lock.
“Tell me,” she pleads, looking close to begging for this.
My blood starts running hot. Scorching. Hot.
I’m getting up in her shit.
“I’m here because I’m working for extra cash, not because I’m digging the music,” I share, staring into her eyes and seeing hers staring back, like what I’m revealing is something she needs to hear, not just something she’s curious about. “Don’t hate it. I listen to stuff like this on occasion but it ain’t something I’d pay money to see. That being said, my woman wants to come to a show like this, crowd this size, booze flowing, other shit possibly going on, she ain’t coming alone. No discussion needed. I could hate this music to the point it makes my fucking ears bleed and I’m still going with her.”
“Why?” Riley asks. “To protect her?”
“That.” I jerk my chin. “And `cause she’s mine and a real man can deal with shitty music for a few hours if it means putting in time with his woman.”
Riley drags her teeth along her bottom lip. Her chest starts working harder, moving stricter with her breaths.
I should stop now. The way she’s looking at me…
I should stop.
“Saw you dancing and thought you were here alone,” I add, smirking. “Already hate that motherfucker for what he gets to touch every night. I thought I was gonna have to kill him.”
Riley stares up at me. She doesn’t blink. Doesn’t breathe.
“Babe,” I probe.
“You shouldn’t say that,” she says, face serious.
Her hand squeezes tighter. She’s anxious now, maybe. Or pissed. I don’t know.
I decide to ease her mind if it’s nerves getting to her.
“I wouldn’t really kill him.” My smirk grows into a smile. “Mess him up though.”
“No. Not that.” She shakes her head. “The other thing. What he gets to touch. You shouldn’t say that.”
“Even so. We’re friends. You shouldn’t say it.”
I bend to get closer. “You might wanna take your hand off me if we’re friends, darlin’.”
J.Daniels is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Sweet Addiction series, the Alabama Summer series, and the Dirty Deeds series.
She would rather bake than cook, she listens to music entirely too loud, and loves writing stories her children will never read. Her husband and children are her greatest loves, with cupcakes coming in at a close second.
J grew up in Baltimore and resides in Maryland with her family.
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Mallory Sims is late for her first day of work.
After spilling her tea, she discovers she has no gas in her car. Add that her arm keeps sticking to her dress from syrup left on the console of her car, flustered feels like an understatement.
Then she sees her new boss.
Graham Landry is the epitome of NSFW in his custom-fit suit, black-rimmed glasses, and a look so stern her libido doesn’t stand a chance. Being flustered is just the start of her problems.
Her punctuality is only the start of his. With a pink slip in hand, he’s been waiting on his new secretary to show up only to let her go. Then she rushes in with her doe eyes and rambling excuses, smelling like bacon and lavender. The termination paper falls to the side as she falls in his arms.
This is a disaster in the making. Not because of his pinpoint exactness or her free spirit, but because when they’re together, the sparks that fly threaten to burn the whole place down.
We both know we aren’t just talking about a moved stapler or a mishmash of files. As that really sets in, the air around us gets heavier. Hotter. Hazardous.“Those things always lead to dangerous situations,” he says, his eyes trained on me.
I shift in my seat, the throb between my legs growing stronger by the second. “People do it every day and survive.”
“They may survive, but don’t things get messy?”
“Only if they do it right.”
His chair flies backwards and he’s to his feet and next to me before I know what’s happening. He doesn’t ask that I stand, but he doesn’t have to. It’s implied and my body reacts accordingly to his silent command.
We stand face-to-face, our breathing ragged. Our chests heave with the anticipation, the possibility, of what might come next.
“You are, quite possibly, the most dangerous of them all,” he says, his voice rough.
“Why is that?” I breathe.
“There’s no plan for you.”
“But you’ve already penciled me in, haven’t you, Graham?” I ask, finding the courage to play this little game with him. Being strictly professional is incredibly hard, and this is way too easy.
I can flirt with the best of them in a bar or on a college campus. But here, with him, it’s a game all its own. A level I had no idea I’d ever be a contender in. Maybe I’m not, but I’m going to play the hell out of it while I’m here … even though if I keep it up, I might not be here for long.
“What do you want, Mallory?”
“I want to do all the things you ask of me and do them better than you ever expected they could be done.”
A rumble emits from his throat as his eyes darken. My knees go weak and I grab the table with my left hand to ensure I don’t fall.
He licks his lips and flips his gaze to my mouth. I think I whimper as I lift my chin, waiting to see what he does next. My entire body is on fire for this man, my heart thumping so hard I’m sure he can hear it.
He moves so my back is pressed against the table, our food long forgotten. His hands are on either side of me, caging me in. Our eyes locked together, he leans in, a slow smirk spreading across his gorgeous face.
“Excuse me, Mr. Landry. Ford is here to see you,” Raza chirps through the line.
We exhale simultaneously, a giggle escaping with mine. There’s nothing funny about this, but the energy has to come out in some way.
“Mr. Landry?” she asks again.
“I’ll be right out. Thank you, Raza.”
“Oh, you’re so welcome, sir.” The line clicks off and Graham marches across the room and punches a button. The light on top indicates he’s not to be disturbed.
I busy myself with cleaning up our lunch, and before he’s at my side again, I have everything bundled up.
“Thanks for lunch,” I say like nothing just happened.
“Mallory …” He runs his hand through his hair, leaving one lock sticking up. Knowing what that will look like if we walk out together, I reach up, hesitating for a split second, before smoothing it out.
His hair is silky against my fingers. He jumps when I touch him at first, but doesn’t back away. “What are you doing?”
“Nothing went on in here. I refuse for it to look like something did. That’s the way rumors get spread, Mr. Landry.”
“Mallory, I …”
I get a final look at his face, reach up and straighten his tie as his eyes go wide, then turn towards the door. “I’ll send Ford in.”
“Yeah?” I turn to see him over my shoulder. He’s standing by the table, his hands in his pockets looking frazzled. When he doesn’t respond, I place my hand on the knob. “I’ll have that file back to you before I leave today. Thanks again for lunch.”
I walk out before I can change my mind.
USA Today Bestselling author Adriana Locke lives and breathes books. After years of slightly obsessive relationships with the flawed bad boys created by other authors, Adriana has created her own.
She resides in the Midwest with her husband, sons, and two dogs. She spends a large amount of time playing with her kids, drinking coffee, and cooking. You can find her outside if the weather’s nice and there’s always a piece of candy in her pocket.
For sneak peeks, giveaways, and more, please join Adriana’s Facebook Group, Books by Adriana Locke, or her Goodreads group, All Locked Up.
From New York Times bestselling author, Penelope Ward, comes a sexy, STANDALONE second-chance romance.
They called him Mack Daddy. No, seriously, his name was Mack. Short for Mackenzie. Thus, the nickname. Perfect, right?
So was he: perfect. The perfect physical male specimen.
At the private school where I taught, Mack Morrison was the only man around in a sea of women.
Everyone wanted a piece of the hot single father of the sweet little boy.
I was riddled with jealousy, because they didn’t know that—to me—he was much more.
They didn’t know about our past.
He’d chosen my school for his son on purpose, because Mack and I, we had unfinished business.
As my friend Lorelai so eloquently put it: “Unfinished business between two people who are clearly attracted to each other is like an eternal case of blue balls.” And I was suffering in pain from my case.
I was still intensely attracted to Mack. I tried to resist him, immersing myself further into a relationship with another man just to protect my heart.
Not to mention, getting involved with a parent was strictly against school rules. But seeing Mack day in and day out was breaking me down.
And soon I might be breaking all the rules.
Author’s note – Told in alternating points of view, Mack Daddy is a full-length standalone novel.
MACK DADDY EXCERPT
Copyright © 2016 by
It was the evening of our monthly PTO meeting. On the agenda was to designate the volunteers for several fundraisers that would take place in the spring.
Setting up the refreshments and a coffee urn in the hallway outside of the classroom, I couldn’t wait to get this over with so that I could go home, get into my pajamas, and relax. It was always exhausting to have evening commitments when the workday ran so late to begin with.
A deep voice from behind startled me. “A keg would be much more fun, wouldn’t it?”
I turned around to find Mack standing there, holding a box of chocolate chip cookies from the supermarket.
“What are you doing here?”
He placed the cookies on the table. “This is the parent and teachers meeting, isn’t it?”
“Yes, but…” I hesitated, not even knowing what to say.
He finished my sentence. “But I’m not supposed to be included in that group?” Mack snapped his finger. “Oh, I’m sorry. I thought PTO stood for ‘pissing teacher off.’ My bad.”
“Well, if that were the case, you might be in the right place.”
“This is the right place for me tonight.”
“This meeting is for serious participants.”
“I’m serious about the teacher. Does that count?”
“Actually, in all seriousness, I’d also like to help. It’s the least I can do after crashing your school year. I really would like to be as involved as I can in Jonah’s education. That’s the truth, okay? Getting to spend time with you is an added benefit.”
What could I say? He had just as much right to be here as anyone else.
“Just be aware that this isn’t the right place to be joking around or distracting the other attendees, for that matter.”
“I don’t plan on distracting anyone but you.”
“Yeah, well you have quite the fan base here. We have a very strict agenda to adhere to.”
He moved in closer and just stared me down for a bit. The contact caused my skin to prickle and my nipples to harden. “Don’t worry,” he said as he looked down, seeming to notice that my nipples were piercing through the fabric of my shirt. “Your points are well noted, Miss O’Hara.” He wriggled his brows. “I’ll see you inside.”
I hated that he knew he was having an effect on me. If my body had this kind of response now, what would have happened if he’d actually done more? Spontaneous impregnation? Some things just never change, and my reaction to this man was an example of that.
A long table sat in the middle of the spare classroom where we held the meeting. There wasn’t a single man in the room besides Mack. He was like the centerpiece.
I took my seat at the end of the table. “So, shall we get started?” Looking down at my list, I said, “First on the agenda is the book fair. We need to elect someone to be in charge of it and coordinate the volunteers.”
Mack raised his hand.
“Yes?” I asked.
“That sounds like it’s right down my alley. I’d like to volunteer to run the book fair.”
“What makes you want that task? It’s a lot of responsibility.”
He thought about it for a moment then said, “I write children’s books. I think I’d be a perfect fit.”
“That’s a good point,” one of the women said. “He might be the perfect fit.”
I’m sure you’re thinking he’d be the perfect fit, alright…in your vagina.
“Okay…but I hope you know that there is a tremendous amount of work that goes into organizing that particular event. It takes place over the course of an entire weekend. You have to place orders with the bookseller, do inventory, delegate tasks, and arrange for an onsite food vendor because many people just come for the food. Ultimately, the food is the bait.”
“I can bait people. I’m a master baiter.” He paused. “I mean…I can handle it. I’ll get a shitload of people to sign up.”
An attending nun gave him a dirty look for his use of foul language.
He cleared his throat, seeming to regret his choice of terminology. “I’ll get people to attend. Don’t worry.”
“I’ll put your name down as a possibility. We’ll take a vote at the end.”
Looking around the room, I asked, “Is there anyone else here who is interested in taking the reigns on the book fair?”
Not a single person budged.
One woman said, “No, but I’ll be happy to help Mack with whatever he needs.”
I’m sure you will.
Mack nodded then offered a smug smile. “Thank you.” He then took a bite of his cookie and winked at me.
Penelope Ward is a New York Times, USA Today and #1 Wall Street Journal Bestselling author. She’s a fifteen-time New York Times bestseller of twelve novels.
Having grown up in Boston with five older brothers, she spent most of her twenties as a television news anchor, before switching to a more family-friendly career. She is the proud mother of a beautiful 12-year-old girl with autism and a 10-year-old boy. Penelope and her family reside in Rhode Island.
Connect with Penelope Ward
A Bleeding Stars Stand-Alone Novel
Coming January 23rd
She stared back at me with big chocolate eyes.
Her gaze washed over me like lava.
Burning up everything in its path.
“You are so beautiful,” she said, voice hoarse.
“Peaches,” I whispered as a warning. Wasn’t sure I trusted myself with her right then.
“You are. Did you know…did you know the first time I saw you…when you were lying covered in blood and you opened your eyes and looked at me, that I saw it? Something so beautiful and raw and powerful. Even when you’d been broken. The way you looked at me shook me straight to my bones. And then tonight…what you did for me…I don’t…”
I roughed a hand through my thrashing hair, a perfect mirror to my thrashing heart. “Peaches.”
I didn’t deserve the way she was looking at me. Like I was good and right when I was no better than the bastard we’d left lying back there on the floor.
So slowly, she reached out, shaking fingers gentle as she traced them along the scar that marked that night beneath my eye.
A tremble took me whole.
Energy pulsed and shivered and shook.
I gripped her by the wrist and pressed the underside to my nose. “You’re killing me, darlin’.”
“And you’re saving me.”
A hard frown hit me. “It was you who did all the saving.”
Sitting back a fraction, she shook her head. “If it weren’t for you, I’d be home tonight, hiding in the dark.” Her tongue darted out to sweep across her lips. “I never would have been brave enough to go there or to stand up to him. To say those things.”
“But that’s where I think you’re wrong, darlin’.” This time it was my turn to reach out and touch her. I cupped the side of her face, glancing between her and the road. “I think you’re so much braver than you’ve been giving yourself credit for. I see it there. Feel it every time I look at you. You’re incredible, Willow. Every time you walk through my door, I know it. So good that I know I shouldn’t be doing whatever the fuck it is I think I’m doin’ with you.”
She was still panting those breathy pants, and she leaned into my touch.
“I…” she attempted before she looked down, averted her gaze. Even with her head downturned, there was no missing the blush creeping to her cheeks. She hesitated before she spoke. “When you kiss me…it doesn’t feel like pretending. It feels like the best thing I’ve ever felt.”
I swallowed hard, crossing a line. Pushing into the boundaries that should have been firmly set in place. “That’s because when I kiss you? It’s not pretend. When I tell you you’re gorgeous—the best thing I’ve ever seen? I mean it. And when I look at you…”
I touched the center of my chest, feeling ripped open wide. Exposed. Maybe telling her the truth when it wouldn’t do either of us any good was wrong. But there was no hiding when this girl was looking at me that way. “I feel it right here. We might be pretending, but you can’t fake this.”
Like she didn’t trust herself, she pressed farther against the door. “You make me want things…things I know I shouldn’t want.”
“And what is it you want, Peaches?” I prodded low, knowing full well I was pointing us in the direction of no return. “Told you when I came into your store that I’d give you anything.”
“I want…” She tucked her bottom lip between her teeth, nervous or unsure whether to give me the truth.
Blood pounded mercilessly through my veins. Thickened with lust. All of it clouded my judgment, knocking loose my center of gravity.
Because I knew the look on her face. Desire was written across her like a musical score.
The way her body rocked and trembled and silently pled.
Desperate to be played.
I knew I should close my mouth. Shut this down. Drop her at home. Instead, I let the words slide free. “Tell me, Peaches.”
The needy rasp fell from between her lips. “I want you to touch me.”
From NYT & USA Today Bestselling Author A.L. Jackson comes the next sexy, gripping Bleeding Stars Stand-Alone Novel…
I’m Ash Evans.
The life of the party.
Hot. Rich. Charismatic.
A tattooed rock star with the world at my feet.
I burn through women faster than the strike of a match.
I’ve embraced my lifestyle and live it to the fullest.
Until the day my lifestyle caught up to me.
Willow Langston found me at my lowest.
Facedown in a puddle of my own blood.
I owe her my life and I have three months to repay that debt.
What I never should have done was touch her. Kiss her. Take her to my bed.
Love wasn’t supposed to be a part of the equation.
I gave up that nasty complication a long damned time ago.
Now I want her more than my next breath.
But she doesn’t know what I know.
Do I leave to protect her? Or can I face my demons and ask her to Stay?