MOST OF ALL YOU
by Mia Sheridan
A broken woman . . .
Crystal learned long ago that love brings only pain. Feeling nothing at all is far better than being hurt again. She guards her wounded heart behind a hard exterior and carries within her a deep mistrust of men, who, in her experience, have only ever used and taken.
A man in need of help . . .
Then Gabriel Dalton walks into her life. Despite the terrible darkness of his past, there’s an undeniable goodness in him. And even though she knows the cost, Crystal finds herself drawn to Gabriel. His quiet strength is wearing down her defenses and his gentle patience is causing her to question everything she thought she knew.
Only love can mend a shattered heart . . .
Crystal and Gabriel never imagined that the world, which had stolen everything from them, would bring them a deep love like this. Except fate will only take them so far, and now the choice is theirs: Harden their hearts once again or find the courage to shed their painful pasts.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mia Sheridan is a New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal Bestselling author. Her passion is weaving true love stories about people destined to be together. Mia lives in Cincinnati, Ohio with her husband. They have four children here on earth and one in heaven.
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Beard in Mind, an all new standalone in the bestselling, romantic comedy Winston Brothers Series by Penny Reid, is available NOW!
All is fair in love and auto maintenance.
Beau Winston is the nicest, most accommodating guy in the world. Usually.
Handsome as the devil and twice as charismatic, Beau lives a charmed life as everyone’s favorite Winston Brother. But since his twin decided to leave town, and his other brother hired a stunning human-porcupine hybrid as a replacement mechanic for their auto shop, Beau Winston’s charmed life has gone to hell in a handbasket.
Shelly Sullivan is not nice and is never accommodating. Ever.
She mumbles to herself, but won’t respond when asked a question. She glares at everyone, especially babies. She won’t shake hands with or touch another person, but has no problems cuddling with a dog. And her damn parrot speaks only in curse words.
Beau wants her gone. He wants her out of his auto shop, out of Tennessee, and out of his life.
The only problem is, learning why this porcupine wears her coat of spikes opens a Pandora’s box of complexity—exquisite, tempting, heartbreaking complexity—and Beau Winston soon discovers being nice and accommodating might mean losing what matters most.
She’d taken the sofa, in her own house, and given me the bed. That didn’t make a lick of sense.
I crouched next to her, threading my fingers into the silky hair at her temples. “Honey.”
I bent to whisper, “Shelly.”
“I’m going to carry you to your bed. I’ll take the sofa.”
I grinned at her soft noises, at the untroubled expression on her face, and how her brow—even in sleep—still looked regal and stern.
Sliding my arms under her legs and shoulder, I picked her up. And, unfortunately, that woke her up.
She jerked in my arms. “What are you doing?”
“I’m taking you to the bed.”
“Don’t do that.”
“I don’t mind, I’ll take the sofa.” Our mouths were just inches apart, and hers was distracting.
She squirmed. “Put me down.”
Sighing unhappily, I did. I set her on her feet next to the couch. The blanket pooled at her feet and I stepped back to give her some space. It was dark, but I could see her just fine, and that meant I had to force my eyes to remain above her neck. The woman was wearing two pathetic scraps of fabric as pajamas. A thin little tank top and shorts. That’s it.
I set my jaw and turned to the side, waiting for her to walk past.
“Where are you?”
I glanced at her and realized she couldn’t see at all. She didn’t have a hand out, but the way her eyes were moving about the room gave away her blindness.
“I’m here.” I didn’t touch her, because if I did, I wouldn’t want to stop.
Shelly turned her head in my direction and took a deep breath. Still she didn’t reach for me. I didn’t know the specifics of what to expect after her Friday session, but I recalled Dr. West saying something about Shelly doing self-guided ERP exercises over this week.
“Can you see?” She licked her lips, her voice sandpapery. “Because I can’t see at all. It’s so dark.”
“I can see.” Unbidden, my eyes dropped to her body, to the swell of her breasts, the panel of bare stomach, the curve of her hips. Pinpricks of heat raised over my skin and I curled my hands into fists.
She shuffled forward and I caught her before she bumped into me, setting my hands gently at her waist.
“Let me take you to your room.” My voice was rough, for obvious reasons.
Saying nothing, she brought her hand to my forearm, her body gently colliding with mine. And then her hand on my arm slid up my bicep to my shoulder.
“Shelly.” I was running out of breath.
“I like this.”
I held still and endured her hands moving over my body, down the front of my shirt, stopping at the hem, then pushing it up.
“Take this off.”
I did. I pulled the T-shirt over my head and let it drop to the floor.
We stood there, facing each other in the dark, not touching. Despite the session on Friday and the progress that had been made, I realized she wasn’t quite there yet. Dr. West was right, Friday was just a step, the first step. Shelly wasn’t able to initiate contact. Not yet.
Her hands balled into fists and she swayed forward, her breath struggling little puffs.
If anything was going to happen tonight, I had to initiate it. I had to be the one to touch first.
God, how I wanted her. How I wanted her above me, beneath me, surrounding me. But how could I?
“I know why I hesitate,” her voice was breathless, “but why do you hesitate?”
“Lots of reasons.”
“Give me one.”
“I don’t want to you use you.”
“I wish you would.”
That pulled a laugh from me, just a small relief from the mounting tension. My eyes moved over her body, an undeniable impulse to devour the sight of her, her legs, stomach, chest, then up her neck to her lips.
“You asked me on Saturday if sex was a big deal for me, or if it was you. The answer is both.”
She held very still, and I got the sense she was holding her breath, straining to listen.
“You are a big deal to me. I don’t want a fling. I don’t want a flirtation. I want promises.”
“What can I promise you?”
That you’ll love me. That I’ll be your priority.
She shifted her weight from foot to foot. A spike of anxiety that she might leave me like this had me acting without forethought. I lifted my hands to her waist again and immediately, her fingertips skimmed over skin of my lower stomach in response, making my muscles tense in hot anticipation. She grew more assertive as she caressed my sides, abdomen, ribs, chest, shoulders, and then back down.
Shelly stepped closer, a hint of thrilling contact between her breasts and my torso, and all the words and worries melted from my mind, died on my tongue, suffocated by the feel of her body, and the possibility of this moment.
Her finger hooked in the waistband of my jeans. “Take these off.” Her hand turned, her fingers and palm cupping me over my zipper.
Instinctively, I pressed myself into her touch even as I grabbed her wrist.
“Beau, I promise—”
She didn’t get to speak, because I kissed her, hard and wild, unbuttoning and unzipping my fly with one hand and bringing her palm inside my boxers with the other.
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Meet Penny Reid:
Penny Reid is the USA Today Bestselling Author of the Winston Brothers and Knitting in the City series. When she’s not immersed in penning smart romances, Penny works in the biotech industry as a researcher. She’s also a full time mom to three diminutive adults, wife, daughter, knitter, crocheter, sewer, general crafter, and thought ninja.
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Jorinda Pearce thought she did everything right – graduated from college, married her long-time sweetheart, established a career. But what does she have to show for it now? A degree she doesn’t use, a job she hates, and an ex-husband that broke her heart.
Looking for a long overdue adventure, Jorie takes a walk on the wild side and attends a masquerade event at The Wicked Horse Vegas. It’s exactly the escape she’s looking for, and even better, she can explore anonymously. Drawn to the man masked in black leather with the body of a god, Jorie finds the greatest pleasures of her life at the hands of a stranger.
Walsh Brooks is the most sought after man in The Wicked Horse. Sex is nothing but a game to him and he’s the type that will always leave at the end of the night without looking back. Unfortunately for Walsh, there’s no way he can walk away from the mysterious green-eyed beauty behind the mask of sapphire feathers, because he knows exactly who she is.
Jorie is his best friend’s little sister and there’s not another woman in the world that’s more off limits.
Squaring my shoulders, I march into The Royale and head straight for the concierge desk. I haven’t been in this casino before. Hell, I haven’t been in hardly any of them. Sure, I’d only grown up about forty-five minutes away, but gambling and all-you-can-eat buffets held no interest to me.
From Micah bragging about his best friend over the years, I knew Walsh orchestrated the purchase of the land, then pulled together financing with two other partners to build this casino. It’s one of the most popular on the strip, boasting five-star dining, old-world elegance, and superior customer service. Again, all this from Micah, but honestly… I’m so proud of Walsh, too. We may have lost touch over the years, but I’ll never forget all the ways in which he acted as a big brother to me.
Okay… that’s gross. Thinking of Walsh like a brother.
I scrub my mind clean of that thought and demand myself never to do that again.
Rather, I’ll never forget all the ways in which Walsh provided me friendship and support in my formative years.
Yes… much better.
“Can I help you?” a man behind the concierge desk asks with a genuine and friendly smile. Not snooty as I would expect in a fancy hotel, and I guess that goes to the superior customer service The Royale strives for.
“Yes… hi,” I say as I nervously tuck my hair behind my ears on both sides. “I need to see Mr. Brooks. How do I go about getting access to his apartment?”
Micah told me some time ago that Walsh lives here.
The concierge never loses his friendly smile, but a single eyebrow arches high at my temerity.
“Oh, gosh,” I stammer. “That came out stalkerish. Mr. Brooks… I mean, Walsh… and I are longtime friends. He used to babysit me.”
“Your name?” the man asks as he pulls up something on his computer.
After a moment of scanning, he looks up at me. “Your name isn’t on the approved list.”
“Well, he’s not exactly expecting me.”
“I’m sorry, Miss Pearce,” he says with true regret in his voice. “But our policy is strict. No one gets up to the private penthouse without their name on the list.”
I lean on the desk with one elbow and lower my voice. “Just out of curiosity… are there any women on that list?”
The eyebrow shoots up again.
“No, wait,” I say hastily as I hold my palms toward him in a silent plea to not process my last request either mentally or on the computer. “That’s totally stalkerish, and I didn’t mean that.”
“Miss Pearce,” the concierge says, now with a hint of annoyance. “Perhaps you’d like to leave a message? I can get it up to Mr. Brooks today and he can call you.”
“No, I need to see him now,” I tell him firmly. “And I swear it’s not to cook a rabbit in a pot on his stove. Can you please just call up to his apartment?”
“That’s not our policy—”
“Look,” I snap as I lean across the desk slightly. “I’m a lifelong friend of Walsh’s. My brother is his best friend. We lost touch for a few years, but we ran into each other last night. I really need to talk to him about something that happened last night, and I’m not leaving this hotel until you call up to his apartment.”
The eyebrow doesn’t arch but it does draw inward to meet its match on the other side as he considers what I just said.
“I swear to you,” and here I pause to look at his name tag, “Bentley. Please just call him. He won’t be mad.”
With a sigh, he relents and picks up the phone receiver, punching in a five-digit number. After a pause, he says, “Mr. Brooks… I’m very sorry to disturb you, sir, but there’s a Miss Jorie Pearce here to see you. She says she’s a longtime friend.”
I watch as Bentley listens, but I can’t gauge what’s being said as his face remains blank. Finally, he says, “Very good, sir.”
I take this to mean I’ll be getting an escort to the penthouse suite, but Bentley replaces the receiver and says, “I’m sorry, Miss Pearce. But Mr. Walsh told me to tell you he’s busy and can’t receive you right now.”
My eyes narrow at Bentley. “I don’t believe you. Call back and let me talk to him.”
“I assure you, I just talked to him and that’s what he said.”
“Call him back,” I order as I point to the phone.
“I can’t,” he says almost with a wail. “If I do, he’ll fire me.”
Okay, that hits home. I don’t want to get anyone in trouble, so I say, “Fine. Give me just a moment.”
I take a few steps away from the concierge desk and pull my iPhone out. I shoot off a quick text to Micah. What’s Walsh’s phone number?
I wait a few moments, but I know Micah is awake in San Francisco at this hour. His phone is always on, and he never ignores a text from me.
He responds with the number before I can even start to tap my foot with impatience, adding on, Why?
I hate the lie, but I write back, Came to Vegas for the day. Thought I’d see if he could meet up for lunch. Haven’t seen him in years.
Cool, he writes back. Tell him I said, “what’s up, douche?”
I roll my eyes as I text back, Real mature. Love ya. Later.
After I save the number to my contacts, I open a new text to Walsh. Let me up to see you or I’m going straight back to The Wicked Horse to satisfy some further curiosities I have.
I hit send and then walk back to the concierge desk. I merely lean one elbow on it and watch Bentley with a silent smile. The phone rings about ten seconds after that.
Bentley’s eyes fly to mine as he listens, and then says, “Yes, sir. Right away.”
When he replaces the receiver, he says, “I’m to show you to the penthouse elevator.”
“Thank you, Bentley,” I say brightly.
Since the release of her debut contemporary romance novel, Off Sides, in January 2013, Sawyer Bennett has released more than 30 books and has been featured on both the USA Today and New York Times bestseller lists on multiple occasions.
A reformed trial lawyer from North Carolina, Sawyer uses real life experience to create relatable, sexy stories that appeal to a wide array of readers. From new adult to erotic contemporary romance, Sawyer writes something for just about everyone.
Sawyer likes her Bloody Marys strong, her martinis dirty, and her heroes a combination of the two. When not bringing fictional romance to life, Sawyer is a chauffeur, stylist, chef, maid, and personal assistant to a very active toddler, as well as full-time servant to two adorably naughty dogs. She believes in the good of others, and that a bad day can be cured with a great work-out, cake, or a combination of the two.
must find a way to convince Maggie
needed to make her big-city dreams a reality. But then Brawley Odell swaggers
back into Maverick Junction, looking hotter than ever in his dusty cowboy boots
and well-worn jeans. He’s the guy she still dreams of at night. The guy who
broke her heart when he left her behind.
vet’s practice—and get back to the smart, sassy woman he’s never been able
forget. He couldn’t be prouder of Maggie’s new wedding-dress business . . .
until he realizes it may mean losing her all over again. Determined to win her
back, Brawley must find a way to convince Maggie that their one true home is
with each other.
recovering middle school teacher, loves long rides with the top down and the
music cranked up, the Gulf of Mexico when a storm is brewing, chocolate frozen
custard, anything by Blake Shelton, Chris Young, and Thomas Rhett, and sitting
in her local coffee shop reading and enjoying an iced coffee. She and her
husband divide their time between Southwest Florida’s beaches and Georgia’s
Blue Ridge Mountains. Having grown up in a small town, that’s where her heart
takes her—to those quirky small towns where everybody knows everybody…and all
their business, for better or worse. Writing for Grand Central and Sourcebooks,
she’s published twelve novels and is at work on a new series.