“If you’re a fan of Kristen Ashley, then you will love this book.” -Aestas Book Blog on Four Letter Word
He didn’t want to be bad. He just didn’t have a choice…
Shayla Perkins isn’t the kind of girl who makes the same mistake twice, especially when it comes to Sean “Stitch” Molina. So when he gives her the world’s biggest rejection, that’s it–she’s done. Until the sexy, silent, unavailable Sean makes Shay a very personal offer. Of course, it still doesn’t mean he’s interested in her. Or does it?
Sean has done things in life. Bad things. And he’s paid the price. All he wants now is to make up for his past by doing good in the present. And no one deserves more good than Shay. Beautiful on the inside and out, Shay is the kind of woman who should be cared for and protected–especially from a man like Sean. He’s tried to keep his feelings for her in check, but a single, reckless impulse pulls them closer than ever before.
Soon the two are sharing their biggest dreams and satisfying their deepest desires. But what will happen if the only way to truly give each other what they want most…is to let each other go?
“The perfect mix of funny, hot and heartwarming. I enjoyed it immensely!” –Mia Sheridan, New York Times bestselling author, on Four Letter Word
I wanted to tell her no. I wanted to lie to Gladys or Dorothy, whatever this sweet old lady’s name was seated in my section, and say we were fresh out of ranch dressing, and the little cup of it that came with her large garden salad was the last drop. If I didn’t and obliged her request, it would mean walking back over to the kitchen window I avoided like the plague and speaking to him—Sean “Stitch” Molina. The keeper of the dressings. The cook at Whitecaps Restaurant. He hoarded the ranch back there, and the only way to get more of it was with words.
And we didn’t do words anymore. Not as of eight months ago.
So, instead of doing my job as a waitress, I contemplated the dishonest route, which could very well get me fired.
Was I willing to roll those dice? Maybe. It might be worth a shot. My boss, Nate, could overlook my wrongdoing. He was understanding enough.
We’re fresh out of ranch, I could tell the lady. And all other dressings, for that matter. I am so sorry. Could I maybe get you another refill? Or something else not located in the kitchen?
I thought on this plan—it could work. Maybe she would believe me. Or maybe she would rethink her request and decide she no longer needed more dressing.
Help a fellow woman out here, Millie. Christ.
“I just need a little bit more,” the lady requested with a gentle smile. “Would you be a dear? I won’t trouble you for anything else, I promise.”
“Of course,” I replied, the response compulsively leaving my tongue. I couldn’t fight it. I couldn’t lie. I’d feel terrible.
Besides, this was my job. If someone requested more ranch dressing, I got them more ranch dressing, even if it meant speaking to the man I was completely and pathetically infatuated with, no matter how badly it hurt me to do so.
I gave the lady a smile in return before moving away.
My steps were slow as I weaved between tables and headed toward the kitchen. I tried to keep my head down, to focus on the tile floor disappearing beneath my feet, but I couldn’t.
I had to look.
Who was I kidding? I wanted to look.
As I approached, Tori was leaning close to the window that separated Sean’s domain from everyone else’s. She slid two plates of food off the ledge, commenting, “Looks good. Thanks, Stitch,” before walking off to deliver her orders, winking at me as she passed.
Sean only went by Stitch when he was here, I was assuming. I wouldn’t know for sure since I’d never spent any time with him outside of work. It was a nickname Tori and I had given him when he’d cut himself a bunch of times during his first week on the job, and he didn’t seem to mind being called that.
Back then, he didn’t seem to mind a lot of things, like listening to me talk and talk about anything and everything, putting my problems on him in between waiting tables, my stresses, my fears, needing a person to vent to and him being the only person I wanted to vent to because of the way he listened and looked at me.
No one had ever seemed so interested in what I had to say before.
Like what I was saying meant everything to them. Like it was a privilege just to listen.
And no one had ever looked at me the way Sean did—glances that only ever lasted a few seconds at a time, but those few seconds of eye contact—holy crap. I thought my skin was going to combust it would tingle and heat up so quickly. The man had a stare unlike any stare. Equal parts intense and intimidating. But his eyes, sweet mother of God, his eyes were unreal, this rich, golden copper color. And when they were on you, you didn’t just see that beauty—you felt it.
It was a two-punch combo that turned me into a puddle. No man had ever affected me that way before.
And that effect wasn’t going away. I was still feeling it.
Even now with us not speaking to each other, or rather, with me not speaking and him not listening, I still couldn’t get Sean out of my head. I missed what we used to have, yes, but it was more than that. It was so much more.
A man I barely knew, who seldom spoke, and who had never showed interest in me in that way had somehow taken hold of my heart and twisted it all up. I didn’t understand how it had happened, I just knew it happened.
I reached the counter silently, which was a miracle considering how loud my heart sounded in my ears. Keeping my breathing quiet, I looked through that window and peered into the kitchen.
Sean had his back to me as he flipped burgers and stirred something in a pot. I allowed my eyes to travel the length of him, something I hardly ever let myself do anymore. We shared quick glances now, that was it.
Sean was well over six feet tall—way taller than me. His back was broad. His hair was long, a beautiful caramel color, and almost always pulled back; his arms were covered in tattoos and roped in muscle; and he had a thick, short beard that hid what I just knew was a strong jaw.
Sean was beautiful. And he was intimidating. Not just how he looked, but how he acted too.
He smoked. He drove a motorcycle. He never smiled. He rarely said a word. Everything about Sean said leave me alone, but eight months ago I couldn’t.
And eight months ago, I didn’t think he wanted me to.
I thought that was why he looked at me the way he did and listened so well. I wasn’t even nervous when I finally asked him out after hearing about a local party. I was excited.
I wanted Sean. I wanted to kiss him and touch him and God, hear his voice more. I had gotten so little of it. I wanted to do everything with him. And I thought we would. I thought we’d go to that party together as friends and leave as something more.
But Sean wasn’t interested in the more I’d been after. He wasn’t interested in me at all.
Now, that was perfectly clear.
Sensing me, or maybe he was finished minding the burgers and whatever he was stirring in the pot—I didn’t know for sure, since I was still letting my eyes wander—Sean spun around and stepped forward, snapping my gaze off his body in a panic. Our eyes met.
His narrowed angrily, like I’d pissed him off and he hated me for it, and further hated me for catching him pissed off about it.
I didn’t understand that look, but no way was I asking about it. I was doing what I came over here to do, and then, hopefully, staying far away from this window the rest of the day.
Maybe I could convince Tori to put in my orders.
“My lady needs more ranch,” I informed Sean, swallowing thickly when my voice came out sounding stressed and distorted. “Could I get a little more for her?”
Sean’s gaze lowered to my mouth like he was waiting for more words, which didn’t make sense to me, until I considered the one word I left off he was most likely waiting for.
“Please?” I added.
His eyes lifted to mine and stayed narrowed. His nostrils flared. His jaw set.
I almost apologized for being polite and for not lying to that woman about our condiment supply. Things were so awkward now, I couldn’t stand it. I missed how easy this used to be.
Memories flooded my mind in an onslaught as I stood there waiting, and my back stiffened. I pictured Sean watching me with care and concern. I remembered the smiles behind his beard I used to catch, and the way his eyes would follow me through the restaurant and brighten when I would wave. We were friends. I wanted to scream at him for ruining that. I wanted to scream at myself for still caring. What was wrong with me? He had completely shut me out. We were nothing now. We were this.
But with a quick hand, Sean snatched a dressing cup off the shelf and ladled some ranch into it before I spoke another word. He sat the cup on the ledge, removing his hand before our fingers touched, and briskly turned back to the grill without giving me another glance.
“Thank you,” I mumbled at his back, turning before I lingered another second.
He shut me out. I needed to do the same to him.
I delivered the cup of ranch to the sweet old lady, picked up a check for a table who didn’t wait for change, and took care of their tab at the register. Then because I didn’t have any other tables needing anything from me at the moment, I moved to a vacant booth far away from that window and busied myself filling ketchup bottles.
The next time anyone needed extra dressing, I’d send Tori.
Three Days Later
I am getting one of everything.
Twisting the dial on the radio, I quieted the music I was listening to when the truck ahead of me pulled forward, allowing room for my Civic to squeeze up next to the speaker.
Mouth already salivating, I rolled my window down.
“Welcome to Taco Bell. Can I take your order?”
My stomach growled as I surveyed my choices.
I eyed the fiesta taco salad. The quesarito. The never-ending list of combos and the specialty options. Everything intrigued my taste buds.
I stuck my head out the window and directed my order at the speaker. “Can I have a number six, please? Chicken supreme with a soft taco? And a Mountain Dew.”
“That’ll be six fifty-seven at the second window, please.”
I couldn’t pull forward yet, so I kept my foot on the brake, and just as I was about to roll up my window to keep the cool March air from filling up my car any more, a song I knew and loved began playing low through the speakers.
I had no idea what the name of the song was or who sang it, but I knew every single word. And this was not a song you didn’t crank up and sing along to with your windows down.
Fingers twisting the dial until music poured out of my car, I started moving my hips in time with the beat and smacking the steering wheel, eyes closing and fingers snapping as the lyrics left my mouth.
“Oh oh oh oh oh oh,
You don’t have to go, oh oh oh oh oh
You don’t have to go, oh oh oh oh oh
You don’t have to gooo.”
The drum kicked up. I shook my head and felt pieces of my short, dark hair lash against my cheeks.
The girl giggled through the speaker.
Smiling and not feeling one bit of shy about the audience I was entertaining, I leaned halfway out the window and sang to her as loud as I could, reaching and pointing like she was front row at my concert.
“Ay ay ay ay ay ay
All those tears I cry, ay ay ay ay
All those tears I cry, oh oh ah ay
Baby, please don’t goooo.”
She laughed harder this time, whooping and cheering me on.
“How’s that?” I asked. “Think I got a career in singing if all my other options fall through?”
“You bet!” the girl yelled. “That was sick!”
Giggling at myself, I sat back in the seat and turned the volume down halfway, noticing through the windshield the space between the truck in front of me and the car in front of it.
My eyes narrowed. I beeped twice. I was starving, and this was not the time to be messing around. What was this person doing?
The truck jerked forward, gears grinding over the music, loud enough I actually cringed. It was an old, beat-up Chevy, covered in dirt and rusted all along the back, with most of the paint chipped off and the muffler barely hanging on by a thread. The well loved and very well used vehicle was probably on its last leg, as was the worn smiley-face sticker half peeled from the bumper, leaving only one eye and half a mouth showing.
That thing had definitely seen better days.
Staring at all that rust, I had a moment of panic when I imagined the truck dying on its owner and blocking my path. Come hell or high water, I’d get my chalupas. Though I really didn’t feel like stepping out of my car and walking inside where the lunch rush sat. I was wearing sweats covered in bleach stains, a baggy sweatshirt, zero makeup, and not a lick of dry shampoo. No way was I presentable for the public yet.
This was why God invented drive-throughs and curbside service—so women like me could sleep in on their days off and rush out the door when a hankering hit without even bothering to glance at themselves in a mirror.
But when the truck made it up to the window to pay without a hitch or stall, most of that panic left me.
And when the driver pulled away after collecting their order and turned out onto highway, all of that panic left me.
I rubbed my hands together. Come to Momma.
“Hello!” I greeted the young girl with a smile and a wave, feeling like we had one of those lifelong friendship connections since I’d just serenaded her.
Grabbing my bag off the floor in front of the passenger seat, I dug around for my wallet.
“No need for that!” she said, turning my head and pausing my search. “That guy just totally paid for you. God…I love it when that happens. It doesn’t happen enough. It’s such a treat!”
I sat up and looked at her more fully. “What? What guy?”
“The guy in the truck.”
Nobody had ever done that for me before, and I used drive-throughs a lot. Well, shit on my head. My first random act of kindness, and I had rushed the poor thing along.
I suddenly felt bad for beeping.
“Yep,” the girl said, smacking her gloss-covered lips. “He asked me how much your order was and gave me enough to cover you both. And he wasn’t bad looking either.”
I leaned closer to the window, my interest in this mystery man spiking off the charts. “Yeah?”
“Oh, yeah. He had that dark, smoldering look about him. Real sexy.”
“Did he say anything? Leave his number on a napkin or something?”
“No.” She shrugged. “Just paid for you and left. He acted in a rush.” The girl turned to pack up my order.
If he was interested, he would’ve gone beyond just paying for my food. I would think he would’ve at least waited before speeding out of here—at least pulled over and given me opportunity to thank him.
Maybe he was just doing a good deed?
Letting myself think on that, I smiled and took my drink. “I’d like to pay it forward. How much is the person’s order behind me? I’ll take care of them,” I said while blindly digging my wallet out of my bag.
“Really?” The girl clapped her hands together and squealed. “This is awesome! And they say there’s no good people left in the world.”
I laughed and made a face like I was agreeing with her, though I really didn’t. I knew a lot of good people. Dogwood Beach was full of them.
And I was blessed to have a lot of those people in my tribe, supporting me, giving me friendship and love, and others, not necessarily in my tribe, but around me enough I got to see their good.
Still, I understood this girl’s excitement. It wasn’t every day a complete stranger did something out of sheer generosity. And selfless to boot. Who didn’t stick around to take credit when credit was due? That was practically unheard of.
It’s funny how a simple gesture can affect you. But kindness was powerful that way. It not only had the ability to alter moods, but it was also infectious. People wanted to spread that good around once they got it put on themselves.
Hell, I was doing it. Maybe the person behind me would do it too, and so on. We could all pay it forward.
Smiling, I thought about that mystery man in the beat-up truck, wondering if he knew just how inspiring he was. How good he was. I hoped someone was telling him.
After safely securing my bag of deliciousness in the front seat, I got the total of the order from the car behind me, paid, got my change, cranked up my stereo again, and sped off, leaving my window cracked so I could serenade Highway 355.
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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I’m writing this letter because it’s highly doubtful I’ll ever garner the courage to say this to your face.
So, here goes.
We’re totally wrong for each other. You’re the proper single mum with a good head on your shoulders. I’m just the carefree British doctor passing through town and temporarily living in your converted garage until I head back to England.
But here’s the thing… for some bloody reason, I can’t stop thinking about you in very inappropriate ways.
I want you.
The only reason I’m even admitting all of this to you right now is because I don’t believe it’s one-sided. I notice your eyes when you look at me, too. And as crass as I appear when we’re joking around about sex, my attraction to you is not a joke.
So, what’s the purpose of this note? I guess it’s a reminder that we’re adults, that sex is healthy and natural, and that you can find me just through the door past the kitchen. More specifically, it’s to let you know that I’m leaving said door cracked open from now on in case you’d like to visit me in the middle of the night sometime.
No questions asked.
Think about it.
Whatever you choose.
It’s doubtful I’ll even end up sliding this letter under your door anyway.
Dear Bridget, I Want You will be available on all platforms on September 18th!
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Every time I considered leaving my room, I would grab the framed picture of Ben and stare at it. The urge to go to Simon was so strong; I basically hadn’t put down the framed photo of my deceased husband in an hour. I was lying in my bed, holding a picture of a dead man while fantasizing about one who was very much alive and in the other room. With the door cracked open waiting for me. There was one part of Simon’s note that I just kept reading over and over.
I want to make you come. Hard. I want you to get lost in me and I want to hear you say my name over and over while we fuck.
While we fuck.
While we fuck.
I was pretty sure that Ben had never used the word fuck like that before. Did we even fuck? We made love, sure. Our sex life was normal—at least, I think it was normal. Don’t get me wrong, the passion wasn’t the same as when we first got together. But after ten years, both of us working full time and raising a child, it was normal to have some of the desire dwindle, wasn’t it?
While we fuck.
I looked at the picture of my husband and sighed. We didn’t fuck. Not even in the beginning. And I felt guilty for that now. Maybe we should have been fucking. I certainly didn’t do anything to entice him to want me the last few years. Was it my fault our sex life had gotten boring? I rested the picture of Ben over my heart and laid my hand over it. I could feel my heart beating out of control beneath my fingers.
Shutting my eyes, I tried to force thoughts of Simon from my mind. But it was no use. Visions of his hard, sculpted body hovering over me had infiltrated my brain. So, here I was, a thirty-three-year-old, single mother lying in my bed all alone with a picture of my dead husband held to my heart while I visualized fucking another man.
Not making love.
I needed my head examined.
After two hours and no sleep in sight, I decided the only way I was going to be able to get any rest was if I got everything I was feeling off of my chest. Flicking on the light, I carefully set the framed photo of my beloved Ben on my nightstand and then opened the drawer and dug out a pen and piece of pretty stationery. I would write down my thoughts to clear my mind. I had no intention of actually giving the letter to Simon, so there was no reason to filter anything I said.
We hope you enjoyed this preview!
Penelope Ward is a New York Times, USA Today, and #1 Wall Street Journal Bestselling author of thirteen novels. With over a million books sold, her titles have placed on the New York Times Bestseller list seventeen times. She is the proud mother of a beautiful 12-year-old girl with autism (the inspiration for the character Callie in Gemini) and a 10-year-old boy. Penelope, her husband, and kids reside in Rhode Island.
Vi Keeland is a #1 New York Times Bestselling author. With more than a million and a half books sold, her titles have appeared in over eighty Bestseller lists and are currently translated in seventeen languages. She lives in New York with her husband and their three children where she is living out her own happily ever after with the boy she met at age six.
Other books from Vi Keeland & Penelope Ward:
Kobo: http:// bit.ly/1RJdUif
Left Behind (A Young Adult Novel)
First Thing I See
Life on Stage series (2 standalone books)
http://www.amazon.com/Beat-Vi-Keeland-ebook/dp/B00ZOMUV12/ http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/beat-vi-keeland/1121715501 https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/beat/id983959123 https://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/beat-5
MMA Fighter series (3 standalone books)
Worth the Fight
Worth the Chance
The Cole Series (2 book serial)
Belong to You
Made for You
Other books from Penelope Ward:
Sins of Sevin
Jake Undone (Jake #1)
Jake Understood (Jake #2)
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.
Connect with Penny:
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.