Authors: Robin Kaye
“ROBIN KAYE DELIVERS A GREAT READ EVERY TIME.”
bestselling author Maureen Child
the Novels of Robin Kaye
“Charming readers with her wit and style, Kaye creates an extremely sensual romance.”
“A treat to read, and a sweet, funny way to start the new year.”
New York Times
bestselling author Eloisa James
“A fun and spicy story. Robin Kaye is a fresh new voice in romance fiction.”
New York Times
bestselling author Susan Donovan
“Robin Kaye creates characters that reach in and grab your heart.”
—LuAnn McLane, author of
“You’ll be in romance heaven.”
—Night Owl Reviews (top pick)
“Wildly entertaining and comical from the start…. The love scenes are hot and sexy, and the chemistry sizzles!”
RT Book Reviews
“Contains as much heart as it does heat, and the result is a book that will make you melt.”
—The Long and the Short of It
A SIGNET ECLIPSE BOOK
Published by New American Library, a division of
Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street,
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First published by Signet Eclipse, an imprint of New American Library,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
Copyright © Robin Kawczynski, 2012
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.
SIGNET ECLIPSE and logo are trademarks of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
Printed in the United States of America
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party Web sites or their content.
If you purchased this book without a cover you should be aware that this book is stolen property. It was reported as “unsold and destroyed” to the publisher and neither the author nor the publisher has received any payment for this “stripped book.”
To my real-life heroes: Susan Reed, my dear friend, and Isabelle Kawczynski, my daughter.
You never fail to amaze me with your ability to overcome incredible obstacles and beat all the odds with an unparalleled zest for life, generosity toward others, enormous talent, humor, and above all else, courage. You are my inspiration.
“Courage is more exhilarating than fear and in the long run it is easier. We do not have to become heroes overnight. Just a step at a time, meeting each thing that comes up, seeing it is not as dreadful as it appeared, discovering we have the strength to stare it down.”
Writing is a solitary endeavor, but a writer’s life is anything but. I’m lucky to have the love and support of my incredible family. My husband, Stephen, who after twenty-three years of marriage is still the man of my dreams. My children, Tony, Anna, and Isabelle, who in spite of being teenagers, are my favorite people to hang out with. They make me laugh, amaze me with their intelligence and generosity, and make me proud every day.
My parents, Richard Williams and Ann Feiler, and my stepfather, George Feiler, who always encouraged me, and continue to do so.
My wonderful critique partners, Deborah Villegas and Laura Becraft. They shortened my sentences, corrected my grammar, and put commas where they needed to be. They listened to me whine when my muse took a vacation, gave me great ideas when I was stuck, and answered that all-important question: Does this suck? They helped me plot, loved my characters almost as much as I did, and challenged me to be a better writer. They are my friends, my confidantes, and my bullshit meters. I owe a debt of gratitude to their families, who so graciously let me borrow them during my deadline crunch. So, to Robert, Joe, Elisabeth, and Ben Becraft,
and Ruben, Alexander, Donovan, and Cristian Villegas, you have my thanks and eternal gratitude.
I’d also like to thank my writing friends who are always there when I need a fresh eye or a sounding board: Grace Burrowes, Hope Ramsay, Susan Donovan, Mary Freeman, R. R. Smythe, and Christie Craig.
I owe a debt of gratitude to Kevin Dibley, the best marine architect out there. When I e-mailed him asking for an eighty-footer, he sent me the plans for
No Censor Ship
—it’s not just a figment of my imagination. It really is that nice. Any mistakes I might have made on the sailing scene are my own.
I wrote most of this book at the Mt. Airy Starbucks, and I have to thank all my baristas for keeping me in laughter and coffee while I camped out in their store. I also need to thank my fellow customers who have become wonderful friends: Cory, Melissa, Liz, Barbara, Cheryl, Mitchel/Michelle (he becomes one of the girls when we’re reading the love scenes aloud), Jennifer, and Phil.
As always, I want to thank my incredible agent, Kevan Lyon, for all she does; my team at NAL; the cover artists for the beautiful job they did; and my editors, Kerry Donovan and Jesse Feldman, for all their insight, direction, and enthusiasm. Working with you has been a real pleasure.
“I think you killed him.”
Ten-year-old Nicoletta said it with such immutable calmness, Breanna Collins wondered if this wasn’t the first time a strange man had entered Nicki’s room at three in the morning and been taken down by a woman wielding a cast-iron frying pan.
Bree’s heart traded punches with her sternum, winding her more than a ten-mile run uphill. She sure as hell hoped Nicki’s assessment of the intruder was right. Better a dead burglar than a live one.
The dim glow of a streetlight outlined the shadowy figure lying facedown on the carpeted floor between Bree and Nicki. Dropping the skillet, Bree skirted the body before grabbing Nicki’s arm, pulling her off the bed, and shoving her toward the door.
The man groaned, and, like something out of a horror flick, a vise-like grip closed around Bree’s ankle. She landed hard, kicking and screaming. She reached for the frying pan, only to be flipped like a tortilla on a hot griddle and covered with one extra-large serving of man.
“Get off me!”
He held her hands on either side of her head as his breath washed her ear. “I’m not going to hurt you.”
“Yeah? Well, I’m going to hurt you.”
“You already have.”
Light flooded the room, causing temporary blindness. When Bree’s vision cleared and she saw he wasn’t an intruder, she wanted to crawl under the pink princess canopy bed and hide. Instead, she dove right into the turbulent, ocean blue eyes of an enraged Storm Decker—the past occupant of Nicki’s room. Storm Decker—a man Bree had known since before she started wearing sexy underwear. Storm Decker—a man who epitomized the reason women bought the lacy, uncomfortable stuff in the first place.
“Breezy, a frying pan? That was the best you could do?”
Bree hated that nickname—maybe because Storm was the only one who dared to use it. It didn’t help matters that the sound of it rolling off his tongue had always been enough to make her breath catch. She struggled, trying to slide from beneath him, but succeeded only in pressing her body against his. His heat scorched Bree through her Mr. Bubble boxers and matching tank top. She couldn’t believe Storm would be a witness to the remnants of insanity caused by a wild shopping spree at the Walmart in Secaucus. Women built like her shouldn’t wear tank tops—not even to bed.
Storm didn’t move a muscle, keeping her pinned beneath him. He didn’t behave like a gentleman should and get off her, help her up, and make sure she was all right—not that she was surprised. Storm Decker was a bad boy, and he had the rap sheet to prove it.
He had the nerve to shoot her his guaranteed-good-time grin, the one that made any woman in the vicinity
want to remove the sexy underwear she’d purchased with him in mind. “If I were out to hurt you, you’d be in a real tight spot right about now.”
“No, she wouldn’t.”
Storm’s attention snapped to Nicki standing in the doorway, holding the phone in one hand and the frying pan in the other.
“You’d be out cold again, and the cops would be on their way. Now, do you want to get off her, or am I gonna have to use this?” She waved the frying pan and did her best to look menacing.
Nicki was too cute to manage that, but Bree gave her points for trying.
Storm turned back to Bree, their noses almost touching. “Who’s the kid?”
“Storm, this is Nicki. Nicki, meet Storm Decker, Pete’s son.” She tried not to think about Storm’s proximity and concentrated on the pained and confused look on his face. He wasn’t the only one confused. “What are you doing here?”
Storm rolled off her. She thought she’d be able to breathe better without two hundred pounds of man crushing her, but she was wrong. No, the breathlessness was still there. Crap. She was twenty-eight and a far cry from that seventeen-year-old caught in Storm Decker’s wake.
“Logan couldn’t get away from the vineyard—something about harvest season. He got ahold of me and told me Pop was sick. Since Logan was unable to make it, I was elected. I’ve been traveling for”—Storm glanced at his watch—“twenty-three hours, and this is the welcome I get? No wonder I haven’t been home in years—”
“Eleven years.” Bree sat and hugged her knees to her chest.
“So you did miss me.”
“Yeah, like a rash.”
“I might not have seen you, but I’ve been home a few times. The last time was five or six years ago. You were probably away at school.”
Bree rose and brushed herself off, just to have something to do with her hands. “You must have left quite an impression. Funny, no one mentioned it to me.” She took the phone and the pan from Nicki. “It’s late, sweetie. Go back to bed.”