Check out excerpts from my currently released books!
One Reckless Night - Book #1 of 4 in The It Happened One Night series
Dane Holden lay in his bed, pretending to be asleep, wondering if he just made the biggest mistake of his life. Instead of spending the evening working on the project for the company he worked for, he had sex with Bayleigh Bishop. He’d love to say he was too intoxicated to know better, but they had only shared a single bottle of wine. One they didn’t even finish. Dane was sober enough to know that sleeping with a co-worker was a bad idea. She was also his best friend, which made this situation even worse.
Inhaling quietly, he caught a whiff her soft scent. It was a fragrance unique to her, an aroma that teased him every time she was near. A loud thump followed by a soft curse brought him out of his internal musings, and he stifled a chuckle. He’d known Bayleigh for five years and never heard her curse before now. Still, she was moving stealthily around the room in complete darkness. Assuming she was looking for her clothes, it bothered him that she felt she had to leave under cloak of darkness.
He was also troubled by the reality of his life not going the way he planned. Right after his thirtieth birthday, he’d felt ready to settle down. Yet, at thirty-five, he still didn’t have the wife and children he’d planned for. Until tonight he was happy to have this project as a distraction.
Due to the time constraints, he invited Bayleigh over to work on the project. He ordered takeout and everything had been fine. How they ended up in bed together was beyond him. One minute they were talking about her research results. The next he was kissing her. The kiss wasn’t one he expected from Bayleigh. It was no secret that she was quiet and reserved. Yet, her kiss had been anything but.
It was hot with no hint of shyness. There wasn’t any other way he could put it other than to say the sex had been extraordinary. He hadn’t expected her to be so responsive. She was the only woman he never had to ask what she liked. Her body told him.
Dane swallowed a groan. Had he really had sex with Bayleigh? It wasn’t that he’d never thought about her in a sexual way. She was a beautiful woman and he would never deny that he was attracted to her. Bayleigh never seemed interested, so he kept his thoughts private. After tonight, he no longer had that option.
What he hadn’t known about was the body she had been hiding underneath her clothes. Bayleigh was stacked and had curves that she somehow managed to keep well hidden. His body reacted to just the thoughts of her body. His desire was quelled when it dawned on him that he just took a step across a line he had no business even going near. He didn’t want to ruin his friendship with Bayleigh, but the way she moved around in the darkness, he felt like he had.
There was another hard thump and Bayleigh stifled a cry of pain. He opened his eyes. It was difficult to pretend he was asleep while she fumbled around in the dark. Besides, he needed to face what they had done head on. Taking a deep breath, he reached over and turned the lamp on. The bright glare made him regret the action, until he looked up. A bare and shapely rear end was in his face.
Package Deal - Book #3 of 3 in The Hennings Sisters Trilogy
“Good morning, ladies. If you don’t mind me asking, what brings you to my home?”
Meghan was the first to speak, and she was straight to the point. “We are here to ask you to go out on a date with our dad.”
If the looks on their faces hadn’t been so serious, she would have laughed at the nine-year-olds statement. Instead, she shook her head. She couldn’t entertain this horrible matchmaking scheme. “No.”
Melissa spoke next. “Ms. Hennings, our father is a good man.”
Chante held her hands up in a non-threatening manner. “I don’t doubt that at all, but we have to be reasonable here. My dating your father would put all of us in an uncomfortable situation.”
“No more than we already are.” Melanie replied.
She was speechless for just a moment. How in the world did Maxwell survive these three?
“Does your father know that you are here?”
Melissa nodded in the direction of her front door. “He’s outside waiting for us.”
Chante went to the window and pulled the curtains aside. Her eyes met Max’s head on. The man had the nerve to wink at her, and the simple gesture sent her heart rate soaring.
Letting the curtain fall back in place, she shook her head again. She’d been so shocked by the three of them being on her porch that she hadn’t noticed the SUV sitting in the driveway next to hers.
“Excuse me, ladies.”
She crossed to the front door and walked out to the vehicle that Maxwell was sitting comfortably in. His eyes followed her all the way to the SUV. The window was rolled down, and she leaned into the car with more confidence than she really felt.
“Now you didn’t really think that I was going to let you sit out here and relax while your daughters have me in the hot seat did you?”
He grinned, and time stood still. His smile was lethal. “Well, they seemed so determined I didn’t think that it would take long, so I wasn’t sure that I needed to come in.”
She tried to keep a straight face at his lousy excuse as she stepped back and opened the driver’s side door. “Well, let me make it clear.”
He chuckled as he slid out of the vehicle. She tilted her head back to look at him. Lord, he was tall. Unfortunately, the man was gorgeous as well, and that was going to make this situation tough.
She led the way back up to the house. When they returned to the living room, Melissa, Melanie, and Meghan hadn’t moved. Maxwell walked over to the recliner and took a seat while Chante continued standing, facing the girls. “Now you were saying?”
“That you should go out with our dad,” Melissa responded quickly, picking up right where she’d left off.
Chante sighed. If she didn’t know any better she would say that the three sisters had taken lessons from Chantel, Cheree, and herself.
“We trust you.”
Chante looked over at Melanie. These three had put their heads together. Either they loved their dad a lot and wanted to see him happy or they needed someone to distract him so that they could pull more antics like this. Although, it looked like they had too much time on their hands already if they had come up with a plan as insane as the one that they were trying to sell. Based on what she knew about Melissa, she was going to go with the first idea. As flattering as it was that she was the chosen one, it was also an impossible situation.
“So what do you think that people will say about me dating my student’s father?”
Melanie grinned. “From the way that Melissa talks about you, I have a feeling that you don’t care what other people say about you.”
Chante looked over at Maxwell who was sitting with a smug look on his face. If she didn’t know any better, she would say that he was enjoying this, especially since he was not on the receiving end of it for a change.
“Are you going to say anything?” Chante asked, arching a dark brow in his direction.
Max smiled and shook his head. “I already lost this battle earlier. I don’t plan on losing another. Besides, I agree with them and would love to take you out.”
His statement confirmed her earlier thought and floored her at the same time. Chante’s mouth dropped open and almost dragged on the ground. She could see that it was four against one at this point.
“See, there you go. Dad is a good man, and you are a good woman. This is a perfect combination.”
He nodded but remained seated and continued to stare at her. The woman was beautiful. She was tall and curvy in every spot that she should be. Her brown eyes were intense and full of desire in his opinion. He was tempted to ask her what she was thinking, but she wouldn’t tell him if he did so he wouldn’t. He smiled when she gave him a look of irritation and impatience.
“Are you going to stop staring at me?”
He shook his head slowly. “No.”
She tilted her head to the side. “It isn’t polite to stare.”
He laughed. “Oh, so you do know the meaning of the word?”
Her eyes widened at his sharp remark. “You—oh!”
She jumped up from the table, knocking her chair over in the process. He knew he caught her off guard when he touched her leg.
Her look became even more irritated. “Why are you touching me?”
He stood and stalked around the table to her, like she was the prey and he was the predator. She backed up as he continued toward her.
“Why not? You didn’t seem to mind a few weeks ago.”
He didn’t stop until her back hit the fridge. There wasn’t any fear in her eyes, only anxiety. She licked her lips before she spoke, and he followed the movement with his eyes. “That was different.”
He stepped closer to her. “How?”
She shrugged, and he liked that she seemed to be so affected by his nearness. He couldn’t ever recall her being speechless around him.
“Are you afraid of me, Cheree, or is it the uniform?”
Her eyes widened as if he hit her conflicts dead-on. He leaned closer to her, and she shrank back before she seemed to catch herself. He watched her stiffen her shoulders.
She tried to step away, but he wouldn’t let her. He brought his hands up and bracketed her body in between them.
“I think it may be both.”
She shook her head in denial, but he continued speaking. “I think you believe that I am too much of a man for you. That I will get inside your castle you’ve built and give you a little taste of everything you’ve ever wanted before breaking your heart by walking away.”
A gasp escaped her, but he kept talking. “I bet that the men that you’ve dated have been weak minded and didn’t give you anywhere near the challenge that you need.”
As if it were possible, Alejandro stepped closer to her.
“I should tell you that I plan to challenge you. Challenge you beyond your wildest dreams.”
Instead of giving her time to answer, he stepped even closer to her. He couldn’t recall ever wanting a woman so badly. When he stood directly in front of her, he reached out and cupped the back of her neck to guide her mouth to meet his.
The moment their lips touched he felt it. Passion so thick you could cut it. And when he went past her moist lips and inserted his tongue inside her mouth, he knew he had been anticipating this very moment ever since the night they met.
He was surprised when her response was immediate, absolute and totally appetizing. The reason they were here might be orchestrated, predestined so to speak, but the sexual chemistry between them was as instantaneous and unprompted as it could get. The depth of her sensuality was enough to make him want to jump into Lake Mayers to cool off. A cold shower just wouldn’t work off the heat.
Ultimate Gamble - Book #1 of 3 in The Hennings Sisters Trilogy
Shocked, Chantel stared at the man in front of her. She fought the instant reaction of wanting to rub her eyes to make sure they weren’t deceiving her. It had been six years since she’d last seen him. Six years that she tried to forget him, and now, she realized it had all been in vain. She was more in love with him now than she had been when she was a teenager. He seemed to have become more handsome than she recalled. His brown eyes still held the mystery they used to, and his light blond hair was cut short, yet still long enough to show his hand had been raked through it several times despite the early hour. He looked taller. His shoulders were broader, and he it looked as though he exercised to stay in shape judging by the way his uniform fit.
Chantel gave herself a mental shake. What was she doing? Drooling over a man whom she shouldn’t be. Looking down at the paperwork in her hands, she used the distraction to collect her thoughts and herself. If she had read it before entering the room, she wouldn’t have been unprepared. It was too late to think about that now. She stepped farther into the room and closed the door behind her. Walking over to Garrett, she held her hand out to him and hoped he would shake it.
“It is a pleasure to see you again, Mr. Brody.”
Before he could react to her formal attitude, Chantel continued. “Tristan is more than welcome to enroll at the day care center. I would like to explain some things to you about the operations of my center, and then you make your final decision.”
Her gaze drifted over to Tristan, and another pang traveled through her chest. He was a carbon copy of Garrett, and he should be their son but wasn’t. What made it even worse was that there was no reason why he wasn’t.
Garrett had walked away from her with no explanation at all. After walking over to the little boy, she knelt beside him.
“Hi, Tristan. My name is Ms. Hennings.”
He gave her a brief look then looked to his father for approval. When Garrett gave it, Tristan grinned broadly before speaking. “Hi, Ms. Hennings.”
“How old are you, Tristan?”
Chantel smiled. He was such a sweetheart. “Do you see the box over there?”
He nodded eagerly, and she chuckled. She explained to him that it was full of toys he could play with while she talked to his dad. “It’s full of toys that you are more than welcome to play with while I speak with your dad, but you must put the toys up when you are finished playing with them.”
He agreed to the bargain, and she stood. Once she was out of his way, he headed to the toy box. She walked over to where Garrett was sitting and took the empty chair next to him.
“You are good with kids.”
“Thank you. Now to discuss the business of . . .” Her voice trailed off when Garrett’s hand touched hers.
“How have you been?”
“Fine, now if we could get—”
“Talk to me, Chantel.”
She shook her head and tried to pull her hand back, but he wouldn’t let her. “There is nothing to talk about, Mr. Brody.”
He refused to let her distract him with her formality. Instead, he leaned forward. “Yes, there is.”
“What? What could we possibly have to talk about?”
“You can tell me how you have been.”
“I already have.”
“Chantel, I know we didn’t end on a good note, but the past is the past.”
Her eyebrows rose in disbelief. “It may be easy for you to forget, but it isn’t easy for me. You know me well enough to know that I don’t make the same mistake twice.”
The doorbell rang and she made her way downstairs. Looking through the peephole, she saw it was the movers. After giving them a few general instructions she stepped back and let them get to work. She propped the front doors open and stepped outside. The movers began with the boxes. They had just gone inside with the first when Troy’s SUV pulled up followed by another. Troy didn’t have the vehicle shut off before Kevin, Michael, and Zander hopped out of the vehicle.
“Aunt Cassie,” they cried out in unison.
A smile spread across her mouth. She knelt and extended her arms, laughing as they almost knocked her over. Her nephews had definitely grown since she last saw them. It was amazing how things changed from one month to another.
“Okay boys let your aunt breathe.”
The three rascals snuck in another squeeze before moving back. She and Lora embraced before Troy swept her up into arms. Her grip on her brother was just as tight as his was on her. He swung her around and she laughed. When he stood her on her feet she placed a sisterly kiss on his cheek.
“It is good to see you.”
When he pulled back she saw five tall and strong men standing behind her brother. “Are these the guys that are here to help?”
Troy nodded and began introducing the guys that he had brought along. There was Falcon who wasn’t really her type. The fact he wore a wedding ring only confirmed it for her. Chandler was introduced to her next. He looked to be more of her typed than Falcon, but a wedding ring surrounded his finger as well. Introduction to Chad came after that and even though there wasn’t a ring on his finger physically he didn’t attract her. Tyson followed and he was more her type than Chandler but his wedding band dashed her hopes. She might be going the right route by finding an anonymous donor. The first three men she met where either not her type or attached. Not a good start.
It made her wonder if all of the decent men in California were taken. Tyson stepped aside and her breath caught in her throat. The man standing before her was breathtakingly attractive.
“This is Mark.”
He held out his hand. Luckily it was the left. What was even better was the lack of a wedding ring. It gave her hope. The instant the words left her mouth she realized what she was saying. She wasn’t looking for a man…just a baby.
“It is a pleasure to meet you,” she murmured.
Mark smiled and she was certain that her heart stopped in mid beat. “The pleasure is mine.”
It took everything that she had to force herself to remove her hand from his and turned her attention to Troy before she got herself in trouble. She wanted to strip off her clothes and jump him, from a mere handshake. Clearing her throat she smiled at her brother.
“The movers have started unloading the truck. I requested that they put the boxes and furniture into the incorrect room. It should make things a lot easier.”
Troy nodded. “Okay then, we can hang back until they finish unloading the truck. After that you can tell us what you would like done.”
She gasped in a mocking fashion. “You are going to let me tell you what to do willingly?”
Troy chuckled. “Enjoy it while you can.”
Lora shook her head before stepping forward. ”Do you have your grocery list ready?”
Cassandra gave her sister-in-law a puzzled look. “I finished it last night.”
Troy groaned and pulled out his wallet. He handed at least a hundred dollars if not more to Lora who pocketed the money.
“If you give it to me. I will go grocery shopping for you courtesy of your brother.”
She finally caught on and laughed. “Made another bet against me Troy?”
“Yes I did. I’m sure I will learn one day.”
She shook her head. “Everyone come on in. I don’t have anywhere for you guys to sit yet, but feel free to check out the house while the movers finish unloading.”
She led the way into the house. Once every one was situated, she headed for her car in the garage. Her purse was still in the glove compartment, a bad habit she was trying to break. She reached in and pulled out her grocery list. When she handed it to Lora, she told her to add beer and a few more snack items to the list for the guys.
After that Lora was out the door with the list. Several minutes later, the movers finished unloading the truck. With a sincere thank you she tipped the movers before sending them off. Turning around, she faced the six guys and three boys that were going to be working for her the next several hours. She convinced Troy and Falcon to put her bed together. Mark and Chad were assigned to rearranging any furniture that needed to be moved. She asked Chandler to assemble the equipment in the office. Tyson was responsible for setting up the bed and furniture in the downstairs guest bedroom. She gave her nephews towels to dust and clean with. It kept them preoccupied while she went upstairs.
She directed Troy and Falcon in setting up her room. Once they had it together, she sent them to organize the other guest room, then went to her office. Mark and Chandler were there. She showed them where she wanted her desk set up, as well as her bookshelves, once she had the room arranged like she wanted it she left the men to arrange the items and assemble everything that needed to be assembled.
She went back downstairs and checked on the boys. She smiled as she watched her nephews. It was so hard to believe that the boys were growing up. She could still remember holding each of them for the first time. It felt like yesterday, but looking at them now she knew that it wasn’t. Her nephews reminded her of Troy and herself growing up. Three years separated her and her brother. There were only two years separating the boys. Michael was the oldest at the age of eight. Lora and Troy were getting ready to celebrate their eleventh year of marriage.
Troy married Lora in his early twenties yet neither one of them had regretted the decision. She had always held out hope to find a man that was as good to her as Troy was to Lora. Her experience with Spencer made her hope dwindle.
Exhaling deeply, she tried to push aside the hurtful memories of the disastrous relationship she’d shared with Spencer. A connection, that in the beginning she thought might lead to something similar to what her brother and his wife, along with their parents had. Unfortunately her relationship with Spencer had fizzled out, or rather imploded, the reason why she decided to focus on her second dream instead—children.
After making sure the boys were okay and didn’t need anything she went back upstairs to her office. She began to unpack her books. Half an hour later she was finished. Just as she was getting ready to start hooking up the computer the doorbell rang. Looking out of the window she saw it was Lora. Running down the stairs she answered the door, calling to the men to come and help with the groceries in the house. Relationship
Lora helped Cassandra put away the groceries before going to help her sons dust and clean. Cassandra rubbed her hands together in anticipation because she was going to have the chance to break her new stove in. Cooking was one of her favorite hobbies. She was always trying out or coming up with a new recipe. First she had to locate the pots and pans she needed to cook with. Not to mention the dishes she would need to serve her guests.
Once she had all of the dishes out of the box and put away, she broke down the boxes. Twenty minutes later she started pasta and broccoli boiling and chicken browning. She began cutting up Parmesan for her Alfredo sauce. Smiling to herself she began to hum. She was glad for all of the help that she received today. Things went a lot smoother because of it. Now all she had to do was get the blue-eyed stranger she met today out of her mind. She didn’t come all this way to be distracted by an attractive man…unless he was willing to father her child.
She paused before speaking, giving herself some time to think. This had to be a hallucination. She was going to wake up any moment now. Although she didn’t want to if it meant Steve was going to disappear. Biting her bottom lip, she was tempted to reach down to pinch herself. But if she wasn’t dreaming it was going to hurt, and she did bruise easily. Then again she didn’t want to pinch herself if it meant Steve was going to disappear. But figment of the imagination or not, if there was one thing she needed right now it was money.
Wanting to find out more about what he was offering before she agreed to anything, she spoke hesitantly. “I’m very good at cleaning and cooking. I did it for my father for years, but I’m not good with animals especially the scaly kind.”
Steve laughed out loud, causing a few people turned to look at them. She noticed it was a nice laugh and she would like to hear it more. Still she couldn’t believe she was entertaining this idea. They were strangers. But she needed a job.
He leaned closer to her. “Well I promise that cleaning my house will be a lot easier, since I’m a neat person, I also don’t have any pets.”
She looked at him with raised eyebrows. “I think you are a little old to need a nanny.”
He chuckled. “You are right, but my four-year-old daughter isn’t.”
Lauryn’s mouth dropped open. She couldn’t hide her shock. She had to force herself to close her mouth. “Daughter?”
He nodded. “Yes, I have a little girl. Her name is Hannah and she is a angel.”
Lauryn remained quiet, not sure what to say. She looked at his hand, didn’t see a ring, and he hadn’t mentioned, a wife, but that didn’t mean anything in today’s world. A lot of men walked around without wedding rings on. But she would find out what was going on in his life relationship wise before she walked into the situation. She’d had enough surprises to last her a lifetime. “Your wife won’t mind will she?”
He smiled. “I’m not married. Never have been.”
He shook his head. “No.”
“What about Hannah’s mother?”
He sighed. “She isn’t in the picture. Hasn’t been for a while.”
Relief flowed through her veins, to find Steve wasn’t involved with another woman. Even though she might not stand a chance with him, she could see herself being jealous when it came to Steve. He was a very attractive man. Any other woman in her right mind that was dating him would probably feel the same way.
Daníella went into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator door. The corners of her mouth curved upward when she spotted the secret weapon she needed. As sadistic as it seemed, she took her time heading back up the stairs to her room where the couple was still locked in a passionate embrace. They weren’t going anytime soon from what she’d seen. Why rush?
After pushing the door wide open, she walked over to the writhing couple. Either the woman was a good actress, or Ignacio might have been worth the trouble she’d gone through. Oh well. She would never find out for herself. Daníella took a deep breath and poured the pitcher of ice water on the couple in her bed. A small hysterical giggle bubbled up from her throat as she had the pleasure of watching the couple jerk apart in a mixture of shock and surprise.
She turned around and walked out of the room, the sounds of Italian curses following her out of the room. A moment later Ignacio bellowed.
Daníella smiled at the anger and shock coloring his voice.
Good. Now he knew how it felt.
Not breaking stride, she kept walking but heard the sounds of her bed creaking, followed by his footsteps. She was appalled that he had the audacity to come after her. But what else should she expect? Continuing down the stairs, she focused on getting as far away from Ignacio as possible. The sooner he was gone, the better.
“Daníella, where the hell are you going?”
She stopped on the bottom stair before turning to look back at him.
“The question is where are you and your whore going, Ignacio, or did you forget this is my home?”
Daníella had the pleasure of seeing him flush with embarrassment, or it could have been anger. Either way, she didn’t care.
“That’s what I thought. Now, I would appreciate it if the two of you could get dressed and remove yourselves from my apartment.”
Daníella turned back around and went to step off the stairs when Ignacio’s next words stopped her.
“If you had called to let me know you would be home early, we could have saved ourselves this unpleasantness.”
Her mouth almost hit the floor with shock. How dare he try to turn this back on her like it was her fault that she’d walked into her own home to catch him screwing another woman in her bed.
Her tone was so hostile Ignacio stopped on the stairs he’d begun to descend. Ignacio immediately tried to smooth over his approach.
“Oh, come on. I am a man. What do you expect?”
The look of contempt she shot in his direction made him flinch. “I expect you to control yourself and behave like a man, not rut like an animal.”
The woman he’d been in her bed with appeared at the top of the stairs behind him, giving Daníella more ammunition to accuse him with—and fortunately she had the decency to put her clothes on.
“Then again, with a woman who looks like that, how could you?”
It was a direct shot at the woman who now resembled a drowned rat after the ice bath she received. Still, she had the nerve to give Daníella a haughty look.
“Ignacio, who is this awful woman?”
Daníella felt her eyebrows shoot up at the description. “Yes, Ignacio, please tell your whore who this awful woman is?”
A feminine gasp of outrage sounded as Ignacio began stammering, trying to explain his relationship to either woman. Daníella cut him off effectively.
“What lover boy here is trying to say is I’m the woman he’s been dating for over a year and the owner of this apartment.”
Daníella watched the woman frown, but it actually looked more like a pout, and she fought the urge to roll her eyes.
“But, Ignacio, you told me this was your place.”
Daníella almost lost it, grabbing onto the railing for support. The man had actually claimed her apartment for his own?
That was it.
Her teeth were clenched when she spoke. “I sincerely suggest both of you remove yourselves from my home as quickly as you can before I find something hot to douse the two of you with.”
Ignacio seemed to be lacking the little intelligence he had left because he started toward her.
“Daníella, she means nothing to me. This is just a fling.”
Is? Not was?
Her eyes widened in shock—which was more of a response than the one his lover emitted. Either she was used to being degraded, or she had no class. Maybe it was a little of both.
“That may be, Ignacio, but I’m sure this isn’t the first fling and it won’t be the last. But this will be the last time you see me.”
He gave her a pleading look. “What was I supposed to do? You weren’t willing to have sex with me.”
Before she could stop herself, Daníella struck him. She was seething with anger. The fact that he was trying to make this her fault because she had wanted to save herself for the right moment pissed her off.
“Get the hell out of here, Ignacio. Now.”
Daníella growled and turned to walk away from the infuriating man before she did resort to violence. Right now she was very close. What she needed more than anything was to get away from this whole situation so she could think clearly. Just a little time to try to figure out why she hadn’t listened to her friend’s advice about Ignacio. Better yet, to figure out why she’d wasted over two years of her time on this loser. She should have known better.
Daníella had barely taken another step before she ran into a warm solid mass. A solid mass that shouldn’t be there, and her first instinct was to fight, especially when solid arms encircled her to keep her from falling backward. Inhaling deeply, she stiffened as soon as a familiar scent drifted over her—one she would recognize as long as she lived.
“I’m tired of being good.”
Teagan Bishop looked up when she heard the sound of chopsticks hitting the table. Tonight she was enjoying her weekly outing with her three best friends. Teagan met the trio in the school library her freshman year in college on the campus of Southern Methodist University. They had quickly become a quad and have been inseparable ever since.
Teagan didn’t know what was wrong with her. From a young age, she’d been socially awkward and unfortunately, had never grown out of it. The only reason she connected so well with her friends was because they’d bonded on an intellectual basis first. Growing up, she had always been a wiz at schoolwork. Not anywhere near a genius level, but studying had come easy for her. So had good grades, making her somewhat of an outcast and adding to her already socially awkward high-school years. She’d also been chubby and her fashion sense had been a little off. Most of the other kids just stayed away from her.
After high school it hadn’t gotten much better. There had been a handful of awkward relationships with men, none of them memorable—at least not in a good way. Besides her brother and father there was only one man she could be around for more than five minutes and not make a fool of herself. He was a co-worker, also the only male friend she had.
“Would you care to explain your statement or do we have to guess?”
Teagan stared at Carissa blankly. “Explain what?”
Leilani put down her chopsticks. “Are you okay Teagan?”
Teagan nodded as she remembered what she said that warranted Carissa’s question.
Alana picked up her chopsticks. “Personally I’m not sure I want to know. It sounds like it could lead to trouble.”
Teagan smiled. “Which happens to be what I’m looking for.”
Carissa’s mouth dropped open. Leaning over, she strained to look into Teagan’s cup. “Are you drinking green tea or did you sneak and get sake?”
Teagan laughed. “It’s green tea.”
Teagan looked down at her plate and frowned. More food had disappeared than she remembered eating. She must be in bad shape because she loved sushi and looked forward to eating at Nakata’s.
Because of Leilani she now went through withdrawal if she went more than a week without sushi. Right now it was the only daring thing she did in her life. But that was about to change. Taking a deep breath, she looked at each of her friends.
“I want to be bad.”
Alana began to choke. Leilani patted her on the back, while Carissa gave Teagan a gaped-mouth stare.
Leilani sighed. “What happened, Teagan?”
Teagan shook her head. “Nothing happened, which is why I want to change it up a little. My life is so boring it is ridiculous. I need to let my hair down, let my bad side out.”
Carissa stared at her with wide eyes. “What bad side?”
Teagan looked at her friends, full of excitement. “The one that I plan to develop.”
Leilani sat her chopsticks down, giving Teagan an inquisitive look. “Did something happen that we don’t know about?”
Teagan sighed with frustration. “No. That’s the problem. There isn’t anything happening. My life is boring.”
Alana looked at her with puzzlement. “You have plenty going on in your life.”
Teagan’s eyes widened with surprise. “I do?”
Carissa nodded. “Yes, you do.”
Teagan folded her arms across her chest. “Besides you guys, my family, and work, name one thing.”
It was a struggle for her to keep a straight face when her friends fumbled to find something else and smiled when they looked at her in defeat. “So, like I was saying, I need to add some spice to my life.” She paused before giving all of them a pointed look. “We all do.”
Leilani was the first to speak. “What brought this on?”
Teagan turned her gaze to Carissa. “You.”
Carissa stared at her, her expression full of surprise. “Me?”
Teagan nodded. “It’s more to do with your mom than you.”
The light in Carissa’s eyes dimmed. It was one of the reasons she had been hesitant to bring it up. Carissa had lost her mom to brain aneurysm two months ago. Teagan reached across the table and squeezed Carissa’s hand. “Losing your mom so suddenly made me realize that life is precious. I’ve accomplished a lot in my life, but there is a lot more that I want to achieve. I also know that I don’t have forever to do it.” Teagan sighed. “I want to shed my good girl persona. Live on the wild side a little.”
Alana looked concerned. “Are you sure about this?”
Teagan nodded. “I’m more than sure. As I said it’s something we all need to consider.”
Carissa shook her head. “I want no part of this.”
Teagan stared at her. “Can you sit here and tell me you are one hundred percent happy with your life? Have you ever wondered what would happen if you handled a situation the complete opposite way than the lackluster, humdrum way you always do?”
“You aren’t making any sense, Teagan.” Leilani pressed her fingers to her temples. “What’s wrong with the lives we currently live?”
“We exist. We aren’t living. There is a major difference.”
Alana shook her head. “I like my life the way it is.”
“Alana, at some point we have to stop being so boring and predictable.”
Carissa frowned. “There is nothing wrong with being responsible and conservative.”
Teagan laughed at the emphasis Carissa put on the words. Leilani sat back in her chair. “What are you getting at, Teagan?”
Teagan leaned closer to her friends. “I think we should all dump our good girl personas at least once. Do something out of the ordinary. Nothing life threatening, just fun.”
Alana shook her head. “I don’t understand.”
Teagan sighed. “Look around us.”
She watched as her friends glanced around the restaurant before looking back at her.
Carissa frowned. “What are we looking for?”
Teagan shook her head. This was going to be more difficult than she thought. Yet the fact that they were so oblivious to what was in front of them told her she had made the right decision. “We are the only single women in here because we don’t have anything better to do. Not that I don’t enjoy spending Friday nights with you guys but it would be nice to have other options on occasion, like a date or something. ”
She watched as Leilani, Alana, and Carissa glanced around again. Their gazes returned to her after a few moments.
“So this is about being single?”
Teagan rolled her eyes at Alana. “No. This is about enjoying life and if having a man is a part of it, then fine. If not, that’s fine, too.” Teagan exhaled. “I’m tired of feeling like life is passing me by.”
Leilani gave her a pained look. “I’m not so sure about that. We know what happened the last time I threw caution aside.”
“Yes, we do,” Alana muttered.
Teagan gave both Alana and Lani a sympathetic look. “Garry, Mitchell, Wayne and Mike were jerks.”
Carissa nodded. “Teagan is right. They were jerks. They also knew they could take advantage of us—”
“Because we are nice girls,” Lani finished.
Alana shook her head. “This is crazy. You can’t tell me the two of you are buying into this.”
“I don’t want to, but Teagan is right.” Carissa’s expression fell a little. Teagan knew how hard the loss of Mrs. Onai was on her friend.
Carissa put down her chopsticks. “Mom used to always tell me that I needed to be more sociable, get out and enjoy life a little more. She said there was so much in the world I hadn’t discovered yet because I hadn’t stepped out of my shell. It might be nice to break out, even if it is temporary.”
Teagan smiled. “Your mom was right, Carissa. There is a lot you’re missing out on. We all are.”
Lani and Carissa nodded in agreement. Alana shook her head, grumbling underneath her breath. Teagan grinned. She loved her friends despite their quirks. They had a lot in common but there were a lot of differences between them as well. Teagan looked around the table studying them. With a Black mother and Japanese father, Leilani was the most exotic looking of the four. Carissa was of mixed decent as well. Her mother was Black and her father Native American. Alana’s mother was Black but her father Cuban. Teagan was the only one who had an African American mother and father.
She loved her friends, didn’t know what she would do without them. Her friends were always there for her when she needed them.
“So what do you think, Teagan?”
Carissa laughed. “This was your plan and now you aren’t paying attention?”
Teagan stared at Carissa and Leilani, wondering what they had come up with. “I’m paying attention now.”
Leilani leaned forward. “Carissa and I said you’re right. So we’re going to follow your suggestion and do something different than we normally do.”
Teagan arched a dark brow in their direction. “What are you going to do different?”
“I don’t know, but I will when the time comes,” Carissa responded.
Alana shook her head. “This sounds like trouble and I want no part of it.”
“You know you’re curious. It’s in your nature,” Teagan murmured.
Alana scowled. “I’m only curious when it comes to academic or work related studies.”
“Tell it to someone who will believe you,” Teagan replied, around a laugh.
Leilani shook her head before raising her hand to capture their waitress’s attention. Teagan’s eyes widened when Lani ordered a round of sake. The waitress reappeared with the drinks. Before she could ask Lani what they were for, Carissa beat her to it.
“I know it’s Friday, but why are we having sake?”
Leilani smiled as she reached for her glass. “Consider this a toast to the new us. A way to commence saying yes to doing at least one thing out of the ordinary.”
Teagan smiled and reached for her sake. After a moment of hesitation Carissa picked up her glass. Alana was the only hold out. “This is insane. I can’t do this. One of us has to be rational.”
“We aren’t asking you to break any laws, Alana,” Carissa muttered.
Teagan nodded. “We just want to prove that nice girls can have fun too.”
Teagan watched as Alana’s worried gaze traveled from Leilani to Carissa. A moment later she groaned in defeat, reached for her glass of sake, and raised it.
“Okay, I’m in,” she muttered. “But is this backfires you all will find out just how much of a mean girl I can be.”
Carissa laughed. “I’ll take my chances.”
After a clink of glasses they drank and sealed the agreement.
Amalía growled with frustration. Serious annoyance rose at whomever it was pounding on her hotel door at this awful hour in the morning. Groaning in aggravation, she swung her legs over the edge of the bed and half walked, half stumbled to the door. She didn’t bother with the peephole because her eyes were so bleary she wouldn’t be able to see out of it anyway. Opening the door a crack she saw a cheerful Hayden standing on the other side.
Her eyes widened at his first attempt at Italian. Profanity poured from her mouth, but Hayden only smiled.
“I assume that wasn’t hello or good morning in return was it?”
She scowled at his cheerful disposition.
“Do you have any idea what time it is?” she asked crossly.
“It is a few minutes before seven.”
Hearing the time aloud made her feel even worse. She was up two hours before she had to be, two whole hours. Closing her eyes, she spoke to Hayden as calmly as she could. “Is the electricity out again?”
She paused. “Is the hotel on fire?”
He chuckled. “No.”
She sighed. “Flooded?”
Amalía felt her teeth clench as her eyes reopened. “Then why the hell are you standing here at my room so early?
Hayden smiled at her. “Because I want to have breakfast with you, and Leo told me you needed at least an hour to get ready.”
Her eyes closed again and counted to ten before she said something else inhospitable.
“Did my brother also happen to tell you I’m not a morning person?”
“Yes, he did, but he didn’t say you were this bad.”
Her eyes flew open in outrage. “This bad!”
The only thing keeping her from saying more was the fact he stood there looking at her with open curiosity, making her wonder how bad she was. His expression also told her he wasn’t going anywhere. Sighing heavily, she opened the door to let him in.
“Come on in.”
She turned and walked back into her room, not waiting to see if he followed her or not. A whimper fought its way up from her throat, but she held it back as she walked past the bed. It was calling her name. It took everything she had not to crawl back into it. Instead she went over to a chair and collapsed into it, closing her eyes. After a long moment of silence she reopened them to find Hayden nearing her. The expression on his face was indescribable. She could only imagine why he was staring at her the way he way.
“What is it?”
He remained silent for another moment before speaking. “Do you have any idea how beautiful you are?”
She rolled her eyes. “Trust me, I have seen what I look like in the morning when I first wake up. You don’t have to sweet talk me.”
He reached out and touched a loose tendril of her hair. “If it is one thing I don’t do it is lie. You are beautiful, whether you see it or not. You don’t need any make-up and fancy stuff to impress me.”
She gave him an exasperated look. “Who says I’m trying to impress you?”
His self-assured expression reminded her so much of Leonardo’s she shook her head.
“Your body does. Your eyes do.”
Denial lay upon her lips, but it would be a lie and both of them knew it. He reached out and pulled her upward until she was standing. She knew he had to be delusional. If he’d been Stefano, she wouldn’t have allowed him into the hotel room until she was presentable. That would include make-up and fancy stuff as Hayden put it. It was somewhat of an unspoken rule that she always looked her best around Stefano. If she didn’t, Stefano hadn’t hesitated to tell her so.
There had been so many times when she'd taken extra care with her appearance only for him to wrinkle up his nose in disapproval. Stefano was a self-centered bastard. How she'd managed to stay with him as long as she had was beyond her. Had she truly been so desperate? Evidently, she had or she wouldn’t have nursed a broken heart for two years. Hayden touched the sided of her face, bringing her out of her thoughts.
She shivered at the way he enunciated her name. He said it like no one else ever had, like no one else ever could.
“Yes?” she whispered.
“I want to know if you taste as sweet as you look,” he stated softly. “Can I kiss you, Amalía?” he asked as he drew her nearer.
She knew she should say no. Instead she found herself stretching up to meet him halfway. The first touch of their lips was feathery, but it was enough. In the next instant his mouth covered hers, hot and demanding. His kiss commanded everything of her, forcing aside the docile and compliant Amalía that Stefano would have expected. The thought spurred her on, and she pressed her body closer to his, wanting the contact, craving it. Hayden feasted on her lips as if he needed nourishment. She was more than happy to provide it. She needed to feel more of his touch. Feel her skin against his.
As if he heard her request, he slid his hand under her cotton pajama top, encountering smooth skin. She moaned, pushing her body closer to his, needing the contact. His hand slid higher until it found one of her breasts. She knew she wasn’t a large woman, but she fit into the cup of his palm perfectly.
“Have you been told how beautiful you are tonight?”
She blinked before swallowing deeply, and he was pleased by how much she struggled with her desire as much as he did. Clearly, she hadn’t expected the question. Shaking her head, she cleared her throat.
“Yes, you did...earlier...but you can tell me again if you like.”
The corner of his mouth tilted up in amusement, and he leaned closer to her. “I would rather show you just beautiful you are.”
Before she could respond, his lips found hers. Once again, his mouth found hers in a delicious yet dangerous kiss. She whimpered against his mouth, and her hips tilted toward his, letting him know what she needed. One of his hands slid from the wall and came to rest on her hip—a nice, curvy hip. Her shape appealed to him on many levels. She had a fuller figure than most of the women he dated in the past. He looked forward to seeing all of it, even though it wouldn’t be tonight. His hand slid lower until it found the smooth skin of her thigh. She shuddered at his touch, and he lifted the hem of the dress until he found the elastic of her panties.
His touch told him they were made of lace and silk. As bad as he wanted to see them, he didn’t risk taking his mouth away from hers. He wanted her with him all the way. The way her arms came up and encircled his neck said yes. He slipped his hands inside of her panties and found what he was looking for. He encountered her wetness and he moaned, the sound quickly swallowed up by her gasp. Damp did not begin to describe how she felt. She definitely wanted him as much as he desired her. He moved his hand back a little until his finger found her ready for the pleasure he offered. She whimpered low in her throat at his touch, but it wasn’t good enough for him. Earlier, she stated she kept a tight rein on her control all of her life, and this was her opportunity to let loose. He pulled his mouth away from hers a little, his lips not leaving hers entirely.
“You don’t have to hold back with me, Tierra.”
She didn’t respond as he lowered his lips back to hers, but he felt as if she struggled to keep herself check, and for a moment, he wondered if she heard him. Just as he started to interrupt their kiss again, she made her first real sound. Her moan of pleasure filled the room in spite of his mouth being sealed to hers, and she trembled against him. The sounds that followed nearly drove him insane with need.
He gathered her close when her felt her legs tremble, knowing she reached the point where she would need his assistance to remain standing. It made him want to lay her on the bed, but nothing would make him interrupt her pleasure. Shifting his hand again, he changed tempo, and a moment later, she ripped her mouth from his. Her cry of release reached his ears.
He watched her as she experienced the throes of passion, and he kept stroking her, pushing her higher. She shrieked, and her eyes flew open as her body came off the wall. Her mouth fell open as she began to pant, and he never stopped moving his fingers. He wanted to make sure she was completely satisfied. Suddenly, she bucked against him, and his name fell from her lips on a loud moan. He kept stroking until her body collapsed against him and he heard her sigh in his ear.