When I completed and submitted my thirtieth book, I decided to celebrate by offering a taste from each one. This one is coming out Jan 15th!
Sterling made a fool of himself over Paige once. Never again. He only returns to Liebe Falls to ensure Paige doesn’t pull a fast one when she audits his father's company. Their chemistry blazes hotter than ever, making him wonder if he misjudged her, but secrets come to light, including an embezzler she tries to protect, proving she’s still the wrong girl. So why does holding onto her feel so right?
I'm releasing this bite before the actual book comes out. You can also read the first chapters here:
In this scene, they've gone to the Liebe Falls Business Association meeting, representing the factory. It's like the Chamber of Commerce for their town. Paige has already suffered a break in at her house and office. And she's just had a set-down from Sterling's mother. She's had it, and she's leaving.
~ * ~
“I saw you come out of the ladies room. Was my mother in there?”
“You know us girls. Always gotta have a friend in there.” She fought to keep her voice from breaking and swiped once more with her pinky. There. All better.
“Gonna tell me what she said to make you leave?”
“It’s not about that.” Not really.
“But she said something. You’re right. I’ve been an ass, using you to get at her, but darlin’, you can’t keep letting her put you on the run.”
“Look, I’m not sniveling over your mother treating me like one more good-for-nothing Fogarty again. I’m trying to come to terms with the fact that this town is toxic to me. I don’t want to play Fearless Leader of the Factory. I thought I could, but I can’t.”
He didn’t say anything.
She sighed, her breath clouding in front of her. It was so damp out here, the chill went right into her bones.
“Fearless Leader of the Factory?” he repeated.
“Oh, shut up.” She turned her face away, saw the humor and felt a smile start.
He took off his jacket and held it for her. “Come back a little longer. I bought you a glass of wine. That should take the edge off.”
“It might if I drank. Didn’t I ask for a soda with lime?”
“Oh. Yeah, I think you did. I forgot. Here, are you going to take this?”
It would mean she was staying, giving this party another go. It would mean she was willing to face his mother again. She didn’t want to, but she was cold enough to turn and reach into the jacket anyway. Her bare arms prickled with goose bumps as the lining slid across her skin.
The smell of aftershave and the lingering heat of Sterling’s body enveloped her. She hugged the weight of his jacket in an effort to gather more of his impervious strength closer to herself.
His hands lingered on her shoulders, gently inviting her to turn.
He wanted to kiss her.
She wanted him to kiss her.
She started to turn— “Oooh!” She gritted her teeth as she caught sight of the mess inside the car.
“What?” Sterling leaned down and let out a cloud of aggravated breath when he saw the contents of the glove box all over the floor. The papers from the box of folders were splayed out on the seats.
She ought to be scared, she distantly thought, but she was just furious. “What are they looking for?” she demanded.
“Didn’t you lock it?”
“This is the good side of town, isn’t it?” She waved her arm at the club. “And this box of papers isn’t likely to hold anything valuable enough to pawn. Who did this? Someone here? Do I go in and start accusing people?”
Sterling shook his head, sighing. “I don’t know. I really don’t.”
They stared at the mess a moment longer.
“I want to go home,” she decided.
“You can’t. Not alone. Whoever did this thinks you’re here, not at the house. They could be breaking in again. Lyle still out?”
“I don’t know. I should call Cam, shouldn’t I?” She let her head drop into her hand. “I’m not up to it, Sterling. I’m really not.”
He surveyed the mess, nodded decisively. “All right, let’s go.”
He crowded her until she slipped into the car. Before she could sort any papers, he came in behind her, forcing her to push everything toward the passenger door.
“There’s no room,” she protested.
“Good. I don’t want you to go too far.”
“Believe it or not, I’m not in the mood for a pass.”
“Who’s making a pass? I’m cold. Where’re the keys?”
She pulled them out of her purse, then began filling the box with the shuffled files.
“Quit fiddling with those papers.”
“There’s no seat belt in the middle.”
“I’ll drive careful.” He did, while she sat right up against him, shoulder to shoulder, thigh to thigh, warmed by more than body heat. Pretending the contact was defense against hypothermia when it was plain ol’ desire to be close to him.
He smelled incredible.
When he pulled into her driveway, he cut the engine, cut the lights, and sat unmoving. History closed in around them as the droning blow of the heater died off and the motor silenced to cooling pings.
She licked her lips. “You have to get out so I don’t knock all this onto the driveway.”
“Yeah.” He still didn’t move. Very slowly, he turned his head to look at her.
She became very aware of the weight of his jacket, the angles of his face, the patter of light rain making this small, dark space that much more intimate.
“I think we have to give it a try, Paige.”
“An affair?” Her insides quaked at the thought.
The corners of his lips quirked. “I was fishing for a kiss, but okay.”
“Oh, God.” She ducked her head into her hands.
His arms came around her, squishing her bent arms and hot face against his chest while his palm cradled the back of her head and chuckles of enjoyment shook through him.
“I can’t believe I said that. Let me out.” She pushed at his chest.
He pressed his lips to her temple, still laughing, trying to gather her hair back and find her face. “Come on, Paige. Be a sport.”
She emerged from her hands enough to look around, then let her gaze come back to settle on his face. He was amused, but in an affectionate way. He scared the hell out of her.
“What’d ya say?” he asked softly. “Should we see?” His thumb caressed the corner of her jaw.
Bad idea, Paige. Don’t do it.
“Maybe,” she said on a near-whisper, and felt wicked. Grew excited.
He smiled and his breath left him in a humid cloud against her mouth before he lowered his head, taking his time as he brushed her lips with his, hesitating one more long second.
She opened a little, pressed a fraction against his mouth, let him know she was planning to participate.
Their lips melded into a real kiss, but it was still only a cautious exploration. How far do you want to take this, he seemed to ask. A little further, she responded, letting her tongue strike against the inside of his lip and retreat.
He did the same, wasn’t so cautious, tasting her in a leisurely way that dampened both their lips and made her sink into him. His arm tightened around her, drew her closer as he deepened the kiss.
She slid her arms around his neck, pressing her torso to his. His other hand snaked beneath his jacket and roamed, learning the shape of her lower spine and hips as she arched to feel more of him against her.
And they began to devour each other.
It was just like last time: bonfire.
Secretly she’d been terrified the sparks and awareness had all been fueled by history and nostalgia, but Sterling would die before he’d disappoint, which was terrifying in its own way.
Longing rose, a yearning to pleasure and claim and offer herself to him, to hands that weren’t fast, but had a way of moving that suggested greed. Hunger. Urgency.
She felt the same, like this might be her only chance so she had to discover everything she could: the pulse in his hot throat against her open mouth, the flex of muscles in his chest, the ridges of his shoulder blades. His taste, oh God, his taste. They were going to incinerate each other right here, kissing like this, feverish and desperate, no longer experimenting, working on a prelude to more, and she was right there with him. Yes. More, more.
With a lusty groan, he twisted to get a better vantage, hit his elbow on the steering wheel, and knocked out a short honk from the horn.
Panting, they jerked apart.
“Smoke alarm,” she said through lips that felt swollen.
“There’s a horny joke there too, but I’m too blown away to find it.”
“That was bad.” She edged back so they weren’t touching, trying to catch her breath.
“You wish. Our lives would be a lot simpler if that had been lousy.”
She pressed her hand to her lips, holding the tingling pleasure in them.
He stretched out his legs, lifted his hips off the seat while he made himself more comfortable. “Again with the driveway. If I ever get you somewhere private— You want to come over?”
She did, but she shook her head, trying to keep a grasp on something like sense.
He swore and opened the door, climbed out and took a big breath of the cold, wet air. Leaning on the rooftop, he said, “It looks like Lyle’s here, but you come straight out if things don’t feel right, ‘kay?”
She slid across, struggling to keep her skirt from scraping up her thighs as she wiggled past the steering wheel. Standing beside him, she waved at the strewn papers. “I guess I’ll deal with this in the morning.”
He locked the door, handed her the keys. “Good night.”
The bulb over the front door was on, casting a reflection of light in the puddle at their feet.
“Are you angry?” she asked him.
“No.” His chuckle was dry. “Frustrated. Come home with me.”
She swallowed. “It’s not a good idea.” She handed back his jacket.
He didn’t answer as he took it.
~ * ~
Also look for Book Two, Only In His Sweetest Dreams, where Paige's brother reinvents himself as L.C. and finds his HEA...
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