Now Available: The Sun and Her Star by Dylan Allen

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“An absolute MUST READ!” – Shanora Williams, New York Times Bestselling Author

The Sun and Her Star, a beautiful and emotional standalone from Dylan Allen is available now in Audio and to celebrate, the e-book is FREE for a limited time only!

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If envy is a sin, then let me be damned.

Graham was born to be a star.

Once upon a time, that star shone only for me.

Now, I have to share him with the rest of the world.

For a while, I thought I could do it. Because, beneath the hypnotic smile, gorgeous body and God-given charm that made him famous, I still caught glimpses of my best friend.

Of the boy who called me sunshine and loved me.

I wore that love like a crown . . . until he placed it on another’s head.

Losing him was agony, distance felt like the only cure.

When tragedy reunites us after years apart, it only takes one touch to erase the past. Just like that, I’m back in his arms.

He promises this time will be different. But I’m afraid to believe him.

Because behind his star’s blinding brilliance is a darkness that doesn’t want to let him go.

I know a star that bright can’t belong to just one person, but my jealous heart doesn’t want to share him.

I want all of him . . . even if wanting what doesn’t belong to me leads me to ruin.

Re-Release: Unbreakable by Emma Scott

Author Emma Scott has re-released one of her first books Unbreakable with a brand new cover and new material!

Scroll down for an Exclusive Excerpt and a Giveaway Chance!

 

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Blurb:


Alex Gardener has her life planned out, down to the smallest detail. She has a skyrocketing career as a litigation attorney, a close group of socialite friends, and is engaged to one of the most successful businessmen in Beverly Hills. Everything is just as she wants it: comfortable, predictable, secure…if lacking passion. Fire.

Cory Bishop is a struggling working man, trying to make ends meet while fighting to keep custody his young daughter. He knows that working hard is the only way to achieve his goals, but lately it seems everything he wants hangs just out of reach.

The bank robbery changes everything.

Alex and Cory spend three harrowing days as hostages locked in a bank with fifty frightened people and six criminals who grow more desperate–and dangerous–by the hour. Alex and Cory find comfort and safety with each other and reveal their deepest hopes and fears and secrets, unknowingly building a bond forged out of desperation and fear, one that they can’t break, even once outside the bank’s walls.

Their lives are turned upside down, irrevocably altered, and they seek to move on and put the robbery–and each other–behind them.

But some bonds, once forged, cannot be broken.

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2U7YCMd

Add to your Goodreads TBR: http://bit.ly/2T5M1cx

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Exclusive Excerpt:

Alex

I marched into the towering edifice of United One Bank, my shoes tapping over the marble floor. I managed a brief smile for the portly security guard but it quickly fell away when I saw that half of Los Angeles had decided to do their banking at lunchtime too.

“Damn.”

         I took my place in line behind a tall blond man in jeans and a rugged brown jacket. The whiff of perfume filled my nose as a beautiful, immaculately dressed young woman of Indian heritage stepped in line behind me.

         I settled in to wait, wondering if I should call my assistant, to make sure nothing was going haywire with any of my cases. But Abed knew me well: waiting until I came into the office to give me news was a bad idea. I checked my cell phone for messages and saw none. No word from my team, and nothing from the court’s clerk. No verdict yet.

I eased a sigh and then tightened up again when I realized I hadn’t filled out any forms—or whatever the hell it was I needed—to get the cashier’s check out of my firm’s expense account.

Isn’t all banking electronic by now? I wondered, irritation mounting.

         The line behind me had grown and the line in front wasn’t moving. I made a questioning motion to the young woman behind me to save my place. She nodded and waved a gold-ringed hand absently without interrupting her cell phone conversation. I hurried to a wooden bank of slips, grabbed one, and stepped back in line with a brief smile of thanks.

But I had nothing to write on. The man in front of me had a strong back.

Maybe he’d let me make a desk out of him.

 I smirked and admired the man’s physique from behind. Broad shoulders, narrow waist. His jeans fit him rather perfectly.

Nice ass, I thought and tingles of a very real, likely very bright blush colored my neck.

Oh, grow up, I laughed at myself.

I rummaged in my bag and pulled out a small stack of my engagement party invitations; the thick stationary would make a sufficient backing. I fished out a pen and started to fill out the little withdrawal form when woman behind me issued a sudden laugh and bumped my elbow. The little stack of envelopes flew out of my hand to scatter around my feet and that of the blond man in front of me.

         “Sorry, so sorry,” the woman muttered to me.

         “Honestly,” I muttered, and knelt to gather the envelopes. The blond man in front of me turned and knelt to help. “Thanks.”

         “No problem.”

         I looked up and might have gasped. I prayed I hadn’t but someone issued a sharp intake of breath, and my neck went beet-red again. I could feel the fire of it burning my pale skin.

         Hello, gorgeous.

The face bent close to mine was ruggedly handsome with a strong jaw, chiseled chin, broad mouth with full lips, and—most surprisingly for a man with lighter hair—rich brown eyes, which were sharply intelligent and soft at the same time. I smelled his crisp scent—aftershave and something like freshly chopped wood—and it seemed that scent settled into my chest and remained there, warm and clean.

Wow, you’re being extra ridiculous right now. 

         “Have I got something stuck in my teeth?” the young man asked, amused. His voice was deep, gravelly…

Sexy.

         I gave myself a mental shake and gathered the rest of the spilled envelopes. “No, I just…I thought I recognized you from somewhere. Are you an actor?”

         He made a face. “Not remotely.”

         “Oh. Well, you never can tell around here. And you look like you could be one. An actor.”

Or a model. Jesus, those eyes…

         He shrugged and smiled crookedly. “I think I look like me.”

         I smiled back. Good answer. I had never seen a man as good-looking—on screen or in real life—as this man in front of me. If I were a romantic sort—which I wasn’t—the word breathtaking would not be overstating it.

We both rose from the floor. His eyes were warm but he seemed to stiffen slightly as he took in my expensive suit, my jewelry, my bag.

He ran a hand through his unruly blond hair and handed me the envelopes he’d gathered. “Yeah, so. Here you go.”

         “Thanks,” I said.

         “Sure thing.”

         He turned his back to me and a small twinge of disappointment nipped at me.

Focus, Gardener, I admonished. The judge could call us back at any moment.

         The blond man in front of me sighed impatiently and checked his watch—a nice looking silver timepiece with a beat-up leather band. His head turned in profile to me.

          “Is it just me or has this line come to a complete standstill?”

         “It’s not just you,” I said, steadfastly ignoring the little tingle that sparked in my belly at the sound of his low, bedroom voice. I cleared my throat. “Looks like they’re short a teller or two.”

“Or ten. Fuck me,” he muttered, then eyed me apologetically. “Sorry for the language, but there isn’t a worse day for this kind of—”

“Bullshit?” I supplied with a wry grin.

         He laughed, and some of the tension in his face relaxed. I tried my hardest not to stare. If he was breathtaking just standing there, there wasn’t a strong enough word for how he looked when he smiled.

         “I’m Cory Bishop, by the way.”

He extended his hand and I took it. Large, rough, calloused. Working man’s hands.

         “Alexandra Gardener,” I said. “Alex.”

         “Good to meet you, Alex,” he said, and it seemed his smile softened around my name.

I shouldered my bag to buy time for a response. No man—not even Drew, my fiancé—had ever affected me this way, and I grew irritated with myself for letting it happen.

“It’s always busy when you’re in a hurry and traffic lights are always red when you’re running late,” I said. “Murphy’s Law.”

         “Is that your specialty?”

          “No, litigation. How did you know I’m a lawyer?”

He shrugged. “Lucky guess. Mostly lawyers and accountants around here. Or movie producers.”

         “Or actors, but we’ve already established you’re not one of those,” I said lightly.

         Cory’s smile tightened. “Nope. Just in the area for work, and in need of a bank before I get back. Looks like I picked the wrong one.”

He rocked impatiently in his work boots, his hands jammed in the front pocket of his jeans. I thought the conversation was over but he was still half-turned to me.

Nothing wrong with small talk. Passes the time.

A good excuse. Plausible. No objections. But the simple fact remained that I wanted to talk to Cory, to keep looking at his handsome face, and prove I could do so without melting into a puddle.

 “So what line of work are you in?” I asked.

         “I’m in construction. A journeyman.” Cory said. “It’s sort of like an apprentice to a general contractor,” he said, answering my confused look. “You have to pile up a bunch of hours doing that first before you can become a contractor yourself.”

         “Never heard that term before, journeyman,” I said. “Sounds rather exotic. Nomadic.”

         “Yeah, well, it’s neither. Not unless you consider driving to job sites nomadic.”

The line moved ahead by one person. I noticed that Cory and I were now standing side-by-side.

“What exactly does a litigator do?” Cory asked. “Litigate…that’s argue, right?”

“Yes. I’m a trial attorney. I specialize in personal injury, and some medical malpractice.”

He scratched the light stubble on his cheek. “You don’t happen to do family law on the side?”

“No, but there’s an attorney in my firm who does.” I cocked my head, studying Cory’s troubled expression. Do you need his number?” I asked softly.

Cory looked as if he were about to say something, changed his mind, and said instead, “Nah. I’m good, thanks.”

The line inched forward and a silence fell between us. For lack of something better to do, I checked my phone for any news from Abed. Nothing.

“No news is good news, right?” Cory said, watching me return the phone to my bag.

“Not this time,” I said. “A short jury deliberation usually means a guilty verdict.”

“You’re in the middle of a trial right now?”

I nodded. “Just finished closing arguments today.”

“Well, if you get the call and have to bail, I’ll hold your place in line. It probably won’t have moved anyway.”

I laughed. “Probably not.”

He smiled and I smiled back. The bank’s air conditioning was working overdrive against the Los Angeles summer heat, but I felt warm all over. And good. It felt nice to stand beside this handsome man and bask in his smile. I did yoga four times a week to keep the stresses of my job from wrapping me tight and squeezing. Talking to Cory Bishop for all of five minutes had the exact same effect.

We stood in a comfortable silence, and I glanced here and there before venturing to make eye contact again. I caught him watching me, filling his eyes with me, and then he grinned and rubbed the back of his neck, sheepish and charming and beautiful.

He’s beautiful, I thought again. No argument there. Case closed.

I blinked and realized Cory’s dark eyes were holding mine intently, and my heart stuttered in response.

“Hey, listen—” he started to say then stopped. Froze. Whatever he had been about to say was lost forever. His eyes widened at something over my shoulder. I started to turn but he grabbed my shoulders—hard—and shoved me roughly behind him.

I stumbled in my heels. “What the hell are you doing…?”

The glass doors of the bank shook on their hinges and I turned to watch with a shocked, detached fascination as six or so men streamed inside. They wore dark, non-descript clothes, their faces hidden behind different Halloween monster masks. Each had a huge, black, automatic weapon strapped around their shoulders and gripped in gloved hands.

A scream—the first that set off a chorus—echoed in the cavernous heights of the bank as one man drove the butt of his weapon into the security guard’s midsection.

Time slowed, and it felt as if some spell had been cast turning summer to winter. I’d been suddenly submerged in ice-cold gelatin. My heart crashed hard against my chest like a wrecking ball, and I clutched Cory’s arm in a vise grip. I could feel the coarse denim of his jacket against my skin. Tangible. It helped to battle the surreal scene that was unfolding before me.

Cory turned to me. I saw fear spark bright in his dark eyes, but they held a grim determination too.

 “Get down!” he shouted, breaking the strange slow-motion spell. “Get down, now!”

Time shot forward and I heard screams, tromping footsteps, and cries. But I couldn’t move. I felt rooted in place. Cory grabbed me and suddenly I was on my stomach, my face pressed to the cold floor, my hand still clutched around his arm. My heart was now pounding so hard I could hardly distinguish one beat from the next.

In seconds, I felt warped by a terror I hadn’t thought it possible to feel. I sucked in air to calm myself as above me and around me, armed men infiltrated the bank, brandishing their enormous weapons, shouting, swearing, and striking people who didn’t move or obey fast enough.

“Ladies and gentleman,” said one, shouting through his vampire mask in order to be heard while pacing among the masses of cowering people. “In the event you have any lingering confusion, this is a fucking robbery.”

Author Bio:

 Emma Scott is a bestselling author of emotional, character-driven romances in which art and love intertwine to heal, and in which love always wins. If you enjoy thoughtful, realistic stories with diverse characters and kind-hearted heroes, you will enjoy her novels.

Where to Find Emma:

Website: www.emmascott.net
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/EmmaScottwrites Twitter: @EmmaS_writes
Instagram: @EmmaScottWrites
Amazon: http://bit.ly/EmmaScott

 

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Cover Reveal: After by Anna Todd

My life before him was so simple. And now there’s just . . . After.

AFTER, soon to be a motion picture, from #1 internationally bestselling author Anna Todd, is coming to theatres April 2019, and we have the special edition movie tie-in cover!

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Experience the internet’s most talked-about book, now a major motion picture, from Anna Todd, the writer Cosmopolitan called “the biggest literary phenomenon of her generation.”

There was the time before Tessa met Hardin, and then there’s everything AFTER… Life will never be the same. #Hessa

Tessa is a good girl with a sweet, reliable boyfriend back home. She’s got direction, ambition, and a mother who’s intent on keeping her that way.

But she’s barely moved into her freshman dorm when she runs into Hardin. With his tousled brown hair, cocky British accent, and tattoos, Hardin is cute and different from what she’s used to.

But he’s also rude—to the point of cruelty, even. For all his attitude, Tessa should hate Hardin. And she does—until she finds herself alone with him in his room. Something about his dark mood grabs her, and when they kiss it ignites within her a passion she’s never known before.

He’ll call her beautiful, then insist he isn’t the one for her and disappear again and again. Despite the reckless way he treats her, Tessa is compelled to dig deeper and find the real Hardin beneath all his lies. He pushes her away again and again, yet every time she pushes back, he only pulls her in deeper.

Tessa already has the perfect boyfriend. So why is she trying so hard to overcome her own hurt pride and Hardin’s prejudice about nice girls like her?

Unless…could this be love?

** The special movie tie-in paperback edition includes never before published material. **

Pre-order the paperback now!

(On Sale March 12th)

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Fall in love with Hardin and Tessa

Download the digital version today!

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About Anna:

Anna  Todd  is the  New York Times  and #1 internationally bestselling author of the After series. An avid reader, Anna began writing stories on her phone on Wattpad, the reading and writing multi platform for original stories, with  After  becoming the most read series on the platform with over 1.5 billion reads. The print edition published in 2014. AFTER has been published in over 30 languages, with more than 10 million copies sold worldwide, and is a #1 bestseller in Italy, Germany, France and Spain. 

The film adaptation of AFTER, which Anna is co-producing, is set to be released in April 2019. Anna  and her husband currently live in Los Angeles. 

Find her at AnnaTodd.com, on Twitter at @imaginator1d, on Instagram at @annatodd and on Wattpad as Imaginator1D.

Connect with Anna:

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New Cover Reveal: On Dublin Street by Samantha Young

On Dublin Street_blogger banner_new cover

Check out this sweet and quirky new cover for On Dublin Street by Samantha Young!

 

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Keep on reading for an exclusive Chapter 1 from Braden’s Point of View!

On Dublin Street by Samantha Young

Chapter 1 – from Braden’s POV

Sighing, Braden shrugged his shoulders back and looked up at the sky, squinting against the sunlight. Decked out in a three-piece suit on a hot day like this didn’t ease his growing frustration with his plan to sell La Cour. No one knew he was thinking of selling La Cour except Thomas Prendergast, a fellow restaurateur. A successful one. If any of his business associates knew Braden was selling La Cour they’d think he was nuts. The restaurant had a world-class chef and a stellar reputation. And it made money.

In truth, Braden was just stretched too thin and not interested in La Cour. All his concentration and focus was going into making his nightclub Fire a success, developing properties that turned profits, and of course he still had his father’s estate agency to keep up with, as well as a successful Scottish seasonal restaurant he co-owned with the chef, Frazier Allie, down on the Shore.

La Cour as it stood was a nuisance, a nuisance Braden felt obligated to attend to since his father worked so hard to make it the success it was. But his father had always told him that when business became a nuisance rather than a challenge, and was no longer satisfying, it was time to move on to greener pastures.

Thomas was dragging his feet with an answer.

He glanced back at the restaurant. Come on, Thomas, make up your mind, man.

Braden’s phone beeped in his pocket. He pulled it out and glanced at the digital reminder informing him he had a meeting in twenty minutes with one of his managers at Douglas Carmichael & Co, the estate agency his grandfather built up from the ground up to become one of the primary agencies in the Lothians.

Shit. He’d spent longer with Thomas Prendergast than he’d meant to. Scowling, Braden walked toward Bruntsfield Church, his pale blue eyes trained on the road ahead, willing a cab to make an appearance. Only seconds later one turned around the corner and he stepped out onto the curb with his arm raised. To his relief the taxi pulled up to him. He’d make his meeting.

Reaching for the handle on the passenger side, a clean, fruity smell drifted towards him seconds before a warm, small and very feminine hand collided with his.

Braden dipped his head and looked down into the face of a woman, her skin bright from the sunlight, her eyes narrowed to slits as she squinted against the sun behind his head. There

was a surprised disgruntlement in her expression. Clearly she assumed this was her black cab. Braden prepared to disabuse her of the notion but stopped. His father taught him that reading people, and by that he meant all the things they didn’t say with their mouths but did with their bodies and eyes, was the key to success in business. Braden read stubbornness in her features he could make out and in the obstinate tension she held in her shoulders. He was in no mood for stubbornness or fighting over a bloody cab after his meeting with Thomas had come to no satisfactory conclusion.

For the sake of expedience Braden asked, “Which way are you headed?”

He heard the words ‘Dublin Street’ and did what he always did: maneuvered things to his liking. “Good.” He pulled the cab door open. “I’m heading in that direction, and since I’m already running late, might I suggest we share the taxi instead of wasting ten minutes deciding who needs it more.” He placed a hand on the small of her back and nudged her into the cab.

Relieved she didn’t stall them, Braden got in after her and immediately gave the cab driver their first destination. His sister, Ellie, lived on Dublin Street in a flat he’d renovated and then gifted to her. Ellie was his half-sister—they shared the same father. She’d never had it particularly easy from their dad. That was putting it politely. Douglas Carmichael was a negligent bastard and despite the fact that he and Braden had finally become friends of a sort before he died, Braden had never forgiven him for his treatment of Ellie. The guilt Douglas should have felt transferred to Braden, and he’d done everything he could to make sure her life was easier, and that she knew he cared. Giving her the flat meant she could concentrate on that PhD she was studying for. Braden might think the PhD impractical, but it made her happy, and in the end that was all that mattered. He also liked having her close to the estate agency which was on Dundas Street. Anytime he was in the area, which was more often than not, he could drop by to see Els. Braden was lucky to call Ellie not only his sister, but one of his closest friends, and it was nice to escape the stress of his business life at least for ten minutes when he stopped by for a coffee with her.

Braden decided he’d get the cab driver to stop at the top of Dublin Street, burl around and come back toward Dundas Street. It would be easier to drop him off first but it was ingrained in him to never let a woman pay for anything, so he’d drop off the unexpected passenger so he could pay the fare.

“Thanks I guess,” the woman answered from his left, the words sardonic. It wasn’t the tone that drew his attention. It was the husky, sexy voice and the American accent.

Glancing in interest at her, Braden almost did a double take. She was attractive. Very. So busy checking her out he asked somewhat stupidly, “You’re an American?”

She turned to him and as soon as their eyes met Braden felt his blood heat with the impact. Jesus fucking Christ. Intelligent, exotic, feline gray eyes appraised him as she tucked a loose strand of dark-blonde hair behind her ear. Her hair was long and pulled back in a pony-tail, giving him an unhindered view of a graceful neck and an arresting face. For some reason he couldn’t look away.

Watching her eyes drop to his body, drinking him in, Braden was intrigued. He was used to women looking at him. He was a big guy and he worked out and he’d had no complaints from women. He wasn’t, however, used to a woman appearing so consternated by the fact that she was checking him out. He raised an eyebrow, curious about her.

“Yeah, I’m American.”

That voice. He shifted in his seat. She really did have the sexiest voice he’d ever heard. He wanted to hear it again. “Just visiting?” Braden murmured.

“Nope.”

“Then you’re a student?”

Whatever she heard in his tone it made her tense. Braden envied her casual, light clothing in this heat and thanked God for throwing her in his path on a day so hot in Scotland it had caused the American to wear those tiny shorts.

True, she wasn’t his usual type. Most of his girlfriends, including his current girlfriend Holly, and his ex-wife Analise, were tall, slender platinum blondes. The American was the opposite of every woman he’d ever dated.

And yet… she was beyond appealing.

She had surprisingly large breasts for such a delicately built woman—big boobs, wee waist, and another surprise were those gorgeous legs of hers. They were shapely and long despite her small stature. Hot blood rushed southwards.

Bloody Nora.

When Braden finally dragged his eyes up to her expressive face he noted the raised eyebrow. He’d been caught eating her up and she did not look impressed. Amused, he grinned at her. Usually this would incur a responding grin. Instead the brat rolled her eyes at him.

“I was a student,” she answered, and Braden’s ears warmed to the purr of her dulcet voice. “I live here. Dual citizenship.”

“You’re part Scottish?”

She gave him a barely-there nod and seemed intent to not look at him. He smiled inwardly, feeling anticipation he hadn’t felt in a while, and definitely not over a woman. It was the anticipation of a challenge. Women came quite easily to him and it certainly made life less difficult. Life was stressful enough in business. But he couldn’t argue with what this strange, inexplicable feeling toward the American.

He’d never felt instant attraction like it.

Braden eyed her and grew even more dangerously hot at the idea of turning that willful glint in her stunning eyes soft with need as he explored every inch of her.

He shifted in his seat again, disappointment settling over him when he belatedly remembered he was seeing someone else. Since he wasn’t the kind of man to ask for another woman’s number while he was in a relationship that meant he’d have to ignore whatever was between him and the American.

Bugger.

The timing was fucked.

He couldn’t have her. Eyeing her mouth, despite knowing that conversation—or anything—was pointless, he found himself asking, “What do you do now that you’ve graduated?”

She shot him a look out of the corner of her eyes and it seemed to hold more than a hint of disdain. “What do you do? I mean, when you’re not manhandling women into cabs?”

It occurred to Braden that a man knew he was really bored with life when he got a kick out of a woman’s condescension. “What do you think I do?”

“I’m thinking lawyer. Answering questions with questions, manhandling…”

“I’m not a lawyer. But you could be. I seemed to recall a question answered with a question. And that,” he gestured to her full mouth, wondering how she’d taste, “That’s a definite smirk.” His voice was thick with want and he knew she heard it in the way her eyes flared as their gazes met.

Yeah, she felt the heat too.

The air in the cab was suddenly heavy with sexual tension. An undeniable, incredible electricity that Braden really fucking wanted to explore.

As awful as it was, he was cursing the existence of Holly, his current girlfriend, to hell in that moment. What he had with Holly wasn’t special. It was just fun. But it was exclusive.

Shit.

The American not only looked away but seemed to deliberately lean her whole body away from him as she stared out at the passing traffic. As he watched her attempt to create a

distance between them with silence, his eyes caressed the sharp sweep of her jawline and the smoothness of her olive skin. She had great skin. Skin that told of her age, and it suddenly occurred to him that the American was quite young, probably ages with Ellie. He hadn’t realized at first because she had seemed attractively self-possessed.

Now she seemed uncomfortable… perhaps inexperienced?

It should have put him off.

It didn’t.

Whoever she was, however she was, Braden was intrigued.

He wanted to work her out.

“Are you shy?” He asked trying not to sound like a condescending prick.

She turned to him with a bemused smile. “Excuse me?”

Not shy then. He eyed her carefully. She wasn’t as easy to read as he’d first thought. He liked that. “Are you shy?” he repeated to be polite, already knowing the answer to that question was no. She was something, but it wasn’t shy.

“Why would you think that?”

He decided to see just how self-possessed she really was. “Most women would be taking advantage of my imprisonment in the taxi with them—chew my ear off, shove their phone number in my face…as well as other things.” His eyes instantly lowered to her lush breasts, letting her know he thought they were well worthy of the attention.

Anticipating either a blush or a scowl when he drew his eyes back to her face, Braden was taken aback to find her grinning at him. Fuck. Her smile hit him with more of an impact than her sexy body. She had one helluva sweet smile. “Wow, you really think a lot of yourself.”

He grinned back. “I’m just speaking from experience.”

“Well, I’m not the kind of girl who hands out her number to a guy she just met.”

Even though he couldn’t ask for her number he was immediately disappointed by her answer. He’d begun building an idea of who she was in his head and prudish girl next door was definitely not it. “Ahh,” he looked away. “You’re a no-sex-until-the-third-date, marriage-and-babies kind of woman.” Not exactly his type.

“No, no, and no,” she answered, seeming affronted by the idea. So affronted in fact that he suddenly wondered if the opposite was true. Was he in the presence of that rare creature? A woman afraid of commitment?

“Interesting,” he murmured.

“I’m not giving you my number.”

Unfortunately Braden couldn’t seduce her number out of her. “I didn’t ask for it. And even if I wanted it, I wouldn’t ask for it.” Fucking lie. “I have a girlfriend.” Unfortunately, true. Braden mentally slapped himself across the head for that ungentlemanly thought. Holly was a good girl and deserved better than that.

“Then stop looking at me like that.”

“I have a girlfriend, but I’m not blind. Just because I can’t do anything doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to look.” A crying shame if you asked him. He wanted to look. He wanted to look past the cynical eyes and through the sweet smile and find out which one of them was her. Maybe she was both. Maybe she was neither. He didn’t know. At all. And he wanted to. Jesus—

“Here’s good, thanks.”

What? His fascination with her mystery was suddenly brought to an abrupt halt by her direction to the driver. They weren’t at Dublin Street yet. They still had… Braden looked outside. They were at Queen Street Gardens, only seconds from her destination. And why was he panicking? She was off limits.

The driver pulled up to the curb and she handed him fare and reached for the door.

“Wait,” Braden found himself saying.

She turned to him, her expression impatient. “What?”

Braden sensed he had seconds here. He could either tell her to take her money back and offer to pay for the entire cab fare as he intended. Or he could ask her the one thing that had been itching at him since they met.

“Do you have a name?”

She smiled and Braden automatically found himself smiling with her. “Actually, I have two.”

What?

She jumped out of the cab and despite the loss of her he found myself chuckling at her cool reply.

It was his own fault. He’d asked a smart woman the wrong question.

Just as abruptly as she’d left him, Braden’s amusement fled. He realized he’d probably never see her again. Now that really was a crying shame. His father was right. His intuition was what made him a successful businessman, and his intuition was telling him he’d just let a great opportunity pass him by.

Swallowing his disappointment, Braden directed the cabbie to turnabout and head toward his meeting… in an even worse fucking mood than he’d started out in.