Célian Laurent. Manhattan royalty. Notorious playboy. Heir to a media empire. …And my new boss.
I could have impressed him, if not for last month’s unforgettable one-night stand.
I left it with more than orgasms and a pleasant memory—namely, his wallet.
Now he’s staring me down like I’m the dirt under his Italian loafers, and I’m supposed to take it.
But the thing about being Judith “Jude” Humphry is I have nothing to lose.
Heir to a stack of medical bills and a tattered couch.
When he looks at me from across the room, I see the glint in his eyes, and that makes us rivals.
He knows it.
So do I.
Every day in the newsroom is a battle.
Every night in his bed, war.
But it’s my heart at stake, and I fear I’ll be raising the white flag.
About the Author
L.J. Shen is an International #1 best-selling author of Contemporary Romance and New Adult novels. She lives in Northern California with her husband, young son and chubby cat.
Before she’d settled down, L.J. (who thinks referring to herself in the third person is really silly, by the way) traveled the world, and collected friends from all across the globe. Friends who’d be happy to report that she is a rubbish companion, always forgets peoples’ birthdays and never sends Christmas cards.
She enjoys the simple things in life, like spending time with her family and friends, reading, HBO, Netflix and internet-stalking Stephen James. She reads between three to five books a week and firmly believes Crocs shoes and mullets should be outlawed.
Because Brett Jackson was the epitome of anti-marriage–a dirty-talking tattoo artist with a penchant for booze, bimbos and blue-eyed women.
I was none of those.
Guess that’s why he walks into my new apartment with my not-so-nice roommate on his arm…as her new boyfriend.
But this is not seven years ago. I’m over him; I really am.
So why does it bother me so much when he catches me naked in my new place?
Why does his searing stare at my body stay with me?
Why am I wishing for a repeat and wanting to break the most important vow I’ve ever made?
A vow that will break both me and Brett…and turn the Manhattan life I’ve built for myself upside down.
Breathless, my body shaking, I pull back just as our kiss begins to deepen, my lips tender to the touch as I lick them. I look up at the brown-haired Adonis holding me close, inhaling as deep as I can. I let go of a shaky breath.
“What are you doing?”
Brett blinks. “What you won’t. What I shouldn’t.” He kisses me chastely, pulling back. “What we need.” He grins. “I couldn’t hold back any longer.”
“You make us sound like dogs on a leash.”
He snorts on a soft laugh, his stare scanning over my lips. “If anyone’s a dog here, it’s me. But I can’t deny you, Elsie.” He gaze goes back up to mine. “I can’t deny this. I know we made a promise. To never cross this line again. But there’s a reason we’re both here in New York. There’s a reason for right now. To be honest… I don’t know what the hell it really is.” His aqua eyes glow. “But I know I want to explore it.” His voice lowers. “Explore you… If you let me, Elsie. All of this — everything — is up to you.”
But I can’t think, let alone move or talk while our bodies are so close. He smells like the rain. Clean and crisp. A fresh, lightly smoky scent, the skin that is pressed against me as is almost as intoxicating as the stare — the one that intensely searches mine, excavating answers, digging deep enough to find only fucking desire, I’m sure. I’m so turned on I can’t speak. My voice is little more than a sigh. I bite my bottom lip, trying to control my tongue.
“We can’t throw caution to the wind, Brett. We have Kayla to think about. And even if we didn’t, we have history, too much past. We’ve practically watched each other grow up. Stayed in the same houses.” I scoff out loud, a blush hitting my cheeks that I can feel burn. “For God’s sake, you’ve seen everything. You’ve seen me at my worst.”
He chuckles, a seductive low sound. “My sexy sweet Elsie. You don’t get it, do you? In my eyes… you have no worst.”
About The Author
Natalie Wrye is a tequila connoisseur, Game of Thrones addict and author best known for writing page-turning Contemporary Romance and Romantic Suspense.
A Jersey Girl living in the South, when she’s not obsessing over a new Netflix series or yelling at college basketball games on TV, she’s usually crafting sexy stories about hard-bodied, alpha males and the strong-willed women who crave them.
For years, he was a part of my life. I watched him rush to the hospital countless times, his beautiful surgeon hands racing to save lives.
After all this time, I can’t escape the truth.
I want Dr. Lowe.
Lust chokes each moment we’re together. He promises to fulfill my fantasies — every dirty, naughty desire we can dream up.
Only, I can’t have him.
He’s confident. Experienced. Seductive.
And he’s my ex-boyfriend’s father.
It was a nicer waiting room than where I’d just been, but much smaller. Only enough room for six people or so. This had to be the place where doctors delivered their post-op summary to families.
I turned to face him, and all the air whooshed from my lungs.
Greg was essentially wearing a suit. He wore black dress pants, a white collared shirt and a cobalt-colored tie. His suitcoat was fitted and white, and he completed the look with a turquoise stethoscope slung around his neck. My gaze traced the blue lettering over his right breast.
Gregory Lowe, MD Trauma Surgery
It didn’t matter that he had faint lines around his eyes hinting at his fatigue, or that his normally perfect hair looked disheveled, as if he’d run a hand through it one too many times. It didn’t matter because he looked fucking perfect. My dirty doctor fantasy come to life.
And he gazed back at me like he wanted to eat me whole, which was more than fine with me. He sauntered over, and his confidence seemed to build with each step, widening his wicked smile.
His voice was deep and sinful. “What seems to be the problem?”
“Problem?” I whispered.
“You’re flushed. Breathing hard.” He seized my wrist, pressed his index finger to my pulse point, and peered down at his watch, counting the seconds. “Your pulse is elevated.”
I had no idea my wrist was an erogenous zone, but in Greg’s hands, every inch of my skin felt that way. I swallowed a breath. “I’m having a reaction to something.”
God, his expression was corrupt and victorious as he walked me backward toward a wall. He feigned concern. “Any idea what’s causing it?”
He wasn’t playing fair, but I liked it. “No . . . Doctor.”
The second the words left my mouth, we burst into flames. His lips slammed against mine at the same instant my back hit the wall. His hands were on my waist, then under my shirt, sliding over my belly and skimming upward. I clenched the lapels of his coat as our tongues tangled with each other, battling for control. He won, of course.
It made sense that our kiss was electric because I was a live wire tonight. His broad chest flattened against me, his hands molding to my bra-covered breasts while he pushed me against the wall. I tore my mouth from his and turned my head to the side so I could drag air into my lungs, and his hot, wet mouth latched onto the sensitive spot below my ear, biting and sucking until I let out a moan.
It was wild what we were doing, and how fast we attacked each other, but the wherewe were doing this was craziest part of it. He didn’t seem to have any concerns though. “Undo your pants,” he rasped into my ear. “I want to check and see how severe this reaction is.”
“Oh my God,” I gasped. Without thinking, my hands moved to follow his command. He pulled his lower body away from mine, just enough to allow me to do it. The snap of my jeans popped open, and I couldn’t get my zipper down fast enough. Should I be worried about someone catching us?
I wasn’t. I trusted him. Greg wouldn’t put either of us in a position for that to happen, and his calm, focused expression reinforced it. He looked absolutely in control, both of me and the situation.
His dark eyes sharpened on mine, studying my response while he slid his hand down the front of my panties. My lips parted as his fingers found me hot and wet for him. What did I look like, clutching his arms right above his elbows as his fingers twitched on my swollen clit? I shuddered with pleasure. Had my pupils dilated? Could he tell my heart rate was racing through the roof?
His lips peeled back in a smug smile. “That is quite the reaction.” Those skilled fingers stirred me further, and I tightened my grip on his arms, biting off a louder moan. Shit, his touch was magic. It lit me up. He could tell too, because his eyes burned with enjoyment. “And you’re still not sure what’s causing it?”
Nikki Sloane landed in graphic design after her careers as a waitress, a screenwriter, and a ballroom dance instructor fell through. For eight years she worked for a design firm in that extremely tall, black, and tiered building in Chicago that went through an unfortunate name change during her time there.
Liam The moment Sadie Matthews walks through the daycare center door, I feel my world tilt in her direction. Again. I fell for her when I was fourteen, and I’m still not over her. Problem: she still thinks of me as a teen she used to babysit. But I’ve learned a few things about pleasing a woman in the last fifteen years. I can’t wait to show her how good it could be. I need to move quickly before I lose her again. This is more than a game to me, but I still plan to win.
Sadie I’ve just survived the worst year of my life. As a single mom of twin toddlers, I don’t have time for a man. I barely have time to finish a thought. Who knew that Liam McAllister would grow up to be so devastating? He’s everything my husband was not: tall, built, and willing to have a tea party with my girls.
I can’t possibly get involved with him. He’s too young for me. Too handsome. But he’s so persuasive…
I messed up. Big time.
These are my thoughts as I rush into the bathroom for the world’s fastest shower. The hot spray of water judges me as I hastily wash Liam off my thighs.
A better mother wouldn’t let this happen. I shouldn’t have a younger lover. If I didn’t, he wouldn’t be so deliciously appealing. I couldn’t lose my mind, wake him up out of a sound sleep to ride him like a pony. And then collapse beside him in peaceful, sated slumber.
Seriously, how did I let that happen?
You know how, my hormones scold me. Because he’s the hottest thing you’ve ever tasted.
Oh yeah. That.
After showering I get dressed at top speed. Poor Liam is currently shouldering all my parental responsibilities. Throwing on yesterday’s sundress, I pause for a moment to pop a birth control pill, because that’s one thing I won’t goof up.
Then I hurry downstairs.
The sight in the kitchen gives me heart palpitations. But not because there’s flour dusting much of the countertop. Rather, it’s the hot, shirtless guy holding my toddler and making a dump truck sound as Amy tips the measuring spoon over a bowl.
“Yes! Well done, little miss,” he says, relieving her of the spoon. “Batter up!” he says, easing her to the floor and catching Kate, who’s trying to climb him like a tree.
Aren’t we all.
Liam easily rests Kate on one of his perfect arms, measures a half teaspoon of baking powder one-handed and then hands the spoon to Kate. “Beep beep beep,” he says, making the sound of a truck backing up. “Look out below!”
Kate dumps the spoonful into the bowl and giggles.
“Awesome. Who wants to add the milk?”
“My do it!” Amy yells.
Boy, I need another minute of alone time to compose myself. Because I love this picture a little too much. I love Liam’s ease with my girls. I love how calm he is at the center of toddler-induced mayhem.
It causes a little pain in my heart as I allow myself one more comparison to my former life. The truth is I never once saw Decker elbows-deep in kitchen chaos with a kid on one arm. Starting breakfast with twins in tow? He was more likely to captain a NASA expedition to Mars than he was to do this simple Saturday morning thing.
I feel like crying for no reason at all. Clearly I’m on some kind of emotional overload. Maybe coffee will help.
Sliding into the kitchen, I go right for the coffee grounds.
“Mama!” Amy says. “Wiam making pancakes.”
“That is amazing,” I say in a wobbly voice. “What a lucky girl you are.”
“Sorry about the mess,” he says, casting a glance in my direction. And I know he doesn’t just mean the flour on the counter, but the bigger mess of waking up naked in my bed.
“You know,” I say with a small sigh. “Messes shouldn’t scare me so much. It’s going to be fine.”
Liam’s smile is so filled with relief, that I now feel like an ogre. This man wants to make pancakes with us on Saturday morning, and I said no to that before? I’m clearly insane.
“Which frying pan should I use?” he asks, casting an eye on the cookware hanging from the rack over the sink.
“Oh, no. You want this.” I pull a double-burner griddle out of a lower cabinet.
“Oooh,” he says. “Mommy has the fancy pancake griddle.”
Kate giggles. She’s gazing at Liam as if he invented fun.
And in my life, I guess he did.
Here’s the tricky thing about being a shrink — sometimes you notice that you’re doing something that’s exactly contrary to the advice you’d give your patients.
I’m having one of those moments right now.
If I had a single mom in my office telling me there was a lovely guy in her life who was kind to her kids — and yet she was giving him the stiff arm? I’d tell her: “Be kind to yourself. Don’t push away the good people in your life, especially if you think you don’t deserve them. Let people surprise you.”
I’m such a hypocrite.
Also, I need caffeine.
Ten minutes later I’m sipping from a mug of coffee, but Liam’s is cooling on the countertop. The man has his hands full right now as he puts pancakes on the griddle with “help” from my daughters.
“How about a few of these?” he asks, holding up a bag of chocolate chips. Meanwhile, Kate waves the spatula around like a ninja. “A guy needs to make smiley faces in his pancakes sometimes.”
Good. Lord. It’s a miracle I’m not just a puddle of my former self right now. This is some serious mommy porn I’m watching. Shirtless guy feeds toddlers before eight a.m. I walk over to the high cabinet where I keep the ramekins. “We could make smiley faces with dried organic currants,” I say, just to be a pain in the ass.
Liam makes a face of disgust as I take the chocolate chips from his hand and pour some into a ramekin. “Joking! Here.”
He gives me a big, hot smile. Okay, it probably wasn’t meant to be hot, but I feel flutters down below.
“Choc-it!” Kate yells, grabbing for the ramekin.
“Easy,” Liam says with a laugh. “That’s for my artwork. Come here and I’ll show you.”
I set the table and pour the sippy cups of milk. And Liam manages to serve up two smiley pancakes — one for each girl — at exactly the same moment, in exactly the same size. This is a man who knows his way around toddlers.
“Not cut it!” Amy yells when I approach her plate with a knife. She picks up the pancake in two hands and takes a bite right out of the side of its face.
“Okay, right.” I back away. Forks are optional today, then. No big deal.
Liam takes advantage of this moment of quiet to quickly pour six more pancakes onto the griddle. He leans over his work, dotting them with chocolate chips.
I step closer to him and put a hand on his lower back. “Thank you,” I whisper.
“For trashing your kitchen?”
“No.” He glances at me and I give him a shy smile. “For being so amazing all the time.”
His eyes get very warm, and I just want to stay right here in that blue-eyed gaze as long as I can. “This might be a good time to confess that I didn’t make smiley faces on my own pancakes.”
“No?” I look down at the griddle. Side by side, two of them have a different design — little bullseyes in their centers. “Those are…?”
“Boobs,” he whispers. “My inner fourteen-year-old has a dirty mind. He can’t shut it off sometimes.”
“Drink your coffee,” I whisper, handing him the mug. “Sit down. Let me finish these for you. Or go put on a shirt because my inner fourteen-year-old has her tongue hanging out all the time, too.”
He gives me a wicked, wicked smile and then runs upstairs to find his shirt.
Tanya Eby is a writer and Audie Award-winning narrator of over 600 diverse titles. Her current romcom series is co-written with Sarina Bowen.
Tanya is a member of SAG/AFTRA. She is a narrator and has over 500 titles to her credit. She also narrates under the name of Tatiana Sokolov for books that are particularly saucy (AKA erotica books).
When not narrating, she’s working on her own writing. Check out her books: Easy Does It, Blunder Woman, Pepper Wellington and the Case of the Missing Sausage, Foodies Rush In, Tunnel Vision, and Synchronicity. She also has a food blog at dips.tanyaeby.com.