Love Like You've Never Been Hurt

BOOK: Love Like You've Never Been Hurt
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Love Like
You've Never Been Hurt

Emma and Jack – Summer Lake Book One

SJ McCoy

A Sweet N Steamy Romance

Published by XSHi

Copyright 2013. SJ McCoy

Cover by Melody Simmons
of eBookindiecovers

Editor Stephanie Dagg

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may
be reproduced, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any
means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without prior
written consent of the author.

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters,
places and events are figments of the author's imagination,
fictitious, or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual
events, locales or persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.

Chapter One

Sitting on the freeway surrounded by thousands of other frustrated
drivers, Emma wondered why on earth she had decided to go to Pete's
office instead of just calling him. LA traffic was nothing to mess
with and she knew it, but once more she'd succumbed to the need to
see a real friend. In what she'd come to think of as the 'fakedom' of
this city, she took every chance she could to connect with the few
genuine people she knew here.

After taking forty minutes to drive a few miles, she soon forgot
her frustration once she pulled into the parking lot of the Phoenix
Corporation headquarters. It was a beautiful modern building, all
steel and glass. Emma had always loved it; it seemed so fitting to
her that Pete had built it. Her childhood friend had always been
considered 'most likely to succeed'. The success of the construction
empire he had created with his partner had far exceeded any
expectations and he continued to go from strength to strength.

Pete's secretary, Judy, beamed as she ushered Emma into his grand

“Hey, Mousey,” he grinned. “To what do I owe the
pleasure of this wonderful surprise?”

“Hey,” she said as he wrapped her in a bear hug. “I
wanted to make sure that you're OK. That you haven't fallen prey to
the evils of the fake city yet.” Pete was the last person she
could imagine ever losing his sense of self. He was as grounded as a
man could be. He'd been that way since they first met when they were
eight years old.

“Well, I haven't crumbled in the last ten years. Not much
chance of it happening today. So why not tell me what's really up?”

“Nothing up at all, Pete,” she reassured him. “You
know me, I just wanted to check in with reality. And I needed to let
you know that I won't be able to drive up to the lake with you on

“Aww, Mouse! Why not?”

“Carla's brewing some godawful meeting and you know how
those go. Lord knows what time we'll get done.”

“I could wait and we’ll leave when you get finished,”
he suggested.

“Thanks, but I think I'll come up Saturday morning. Get
there for when the fun starts.”

They were both looking forward to the fourteenth birthday party of
their godson, Scott, on Saturday. Scott's mom, Missy, was the third
member of their 'gruesome foursome' along with Ben. Emma smiled,
grateful that the four of them were still so close after all these
years. They had formed such a bond at the little school in Summer
Lake when they were eight. It had stayed strong for twenty-three
years and counting.

“I really don't mind,” said Pete. “I could get a
few more hours in here while I wait.”

“Oh, no you don't. I'm not going to be the one to explain to
your mom why you got there so late. You know she loves it when you're
there the whole weekend. And besides, I'm too scared to roll in late
at night now.”

Pete raised an eyebrow.

“Gramps might shoot me!” she laughed.

Pete joined her laughter, remembering last summer when Emma's
grandfather had become a little too eager to defend his property.

“I guess it probably would be safer to come up Saturday
then, but if you do get finished early you could always come over and
sleep at the guest house. The key is still in the same place it's
always been. You wouldn't disturb anyone out there, or get shot at,
and that way we could still all do breakfast on Saturday.”

Emma put her hands on her hips.

“Ah, she's considering it,” smiled Pete. “I knew
the mention of breakfast might swing it.”

It was something of a
tradition for the four friends that, whenever they were all back at
Summer Lake, they made it a point to have breakfast together on the
weekends. Ben and Missy still lived by the lake. Ben ran his family
business, the resort. Missy raised her son and had always worked
whatever jobs she could find. A few years ago she had started her own
business, cleaning the second homes and vacation houses around the

Emma was all too aware that she was the one who had been missing
from the group more and more over the last year. She didn't like it
one bit, but her agent, Carla, had been keeping her nose to the
grindstone with one project after another. A few years ago Emma had
written a screenplay adapting a best-selling novel into a major
movie. Since then she'd been in high demand for adaptations and
rewrites, but hadn't really enjoyed any of it. Her time and energy
were engaged to the full, but she wished she could say the same about
her creativity or sense of achievement. She frowned; it irked her
that yet again she'd be missing out on what she really wanted to do
in order to do something she didn't.

“Sorry if I touched a nerve, Em,” Pete's voice broke
her train of thought.

“Oh, it’s OK. You know how to push my buttons. Maybe
I'll drive up really early on Saturday and get there in time for

“Don't sweat it, just get there when you can. We can do
breakfast on Sunday, I was only winding you up. No need to go into
Super Mouse mode, flying up the freeway in your mouse-mobile at the
crack of dawn, cape blowing in the wind!”

Emma took a step towards him, shaking her finger in the air, green
eyes dancing, about to give him hell for mocking her with his
childhood nickname for her. At that moment Pete's intercom buzzed.

“Sorry to interrupt,” came Judy's voice, “but
I've finally got Mr. Bowers on the line for you.”

“Great,” said Pete, suddenly all businesslike, “put
him through.” He smiled up at Emma and whispered, “Saved
by the bell!”

Emma did her best to flounce from the room. She often hung out in
Pete's adjoining meeting room when important calls interrupted her
visits with him. This time, still feigning indignation, she stuck her
nose in the air and turned and flung the double doors dramatically
wide open, only to hurtle into someone on the other side. She ran
straight into a broad chest, which she noticed smelled wonderful…
sandalwood. Unfortunately that was all she had time to notice before
she realized that their feet were somehow tangled together and her
momentum was carrying her off balance. She felt a strong arm latch
around her and pull her close. The next thing she knew she was on the
floor, cushioned by that big arm which was attached to the most
handsome man she had ever seen. Huge, deep brown eyes were staring
down into hers, for a moment they were both lost.

“Are you OK?” he asked.

She nodded, unable to speak, entranced by those eyes still staring
into hers. She watched them fill with concern when she didn't

“I, I'm OK,” she stammered.

The moment of magic was broken by a snort from Pete's office. He’d
seen the whole thing through the open office doors. Hand over the
mouthpiece of his phone, his face was red from the effort of trying
not to laugh.

“Super Mouse!” he squeaked, before lowering his voice
several octaves to continue his conversation.

Emma scrambled to her feet, ready to slam the doors shut. But
before she did so, she stuck her tongue out and turned and wiggled
her backside at him. No sooner had she slipped back into that moment
of shared childishness than she remembered the man on the floor. Her
cheeks flushed as she looked down to where he still sat.

“Oh no, are you OK?” She rushed to help him to his
feet, hoping he wasn't hurt.

“I'm stunned.”

She frowned, beginning to worry. He laughed, a deep, slow, sexy
laugh that made her catch her breath.

“I’m stunned because I've never seen Peter the Great
have a door slammed in his face before! I've never seen him lose his
cool on the phone and here you are, making him snort and wiggling
your tushie at him!”

Emma's cheeks flared. In this city she was used to projecting
calmness, composure and elegance. Now here she was with this gorgeous
man sitting on the floor laughing at her childish behavior. She took
a deep breath.

“I'm so sorry. Pete and I have known each other since
childhood and we occasionally revert to old ways.” She extended
her hand, this time all cool composure. “Let me introduce
myself in a more traditional manner. I'm Emma Douglas.”

“Oh, I know who you are.” As he looked into her eyes
she had a crazy urge to open them wide so he could see her soul. She
made herself snap to; that was ridiculous!

“I'm afraid I don't know who you are,” she replied.
There went that smile again, those lips. She couldn't help but wonder
what it would be like to kiss them. Oh my goodness, Emma! Stop it!

“Forgive me, Jack Benson,” he said as he got to his
feet and towered over her. He had to be at least six feet two inches
tall, powerfully built, all muscle and controlled energy, short dark
hair to go with those smoldering eyes and everything packaged in a
crisp white dress shirt and black suit pants.

“So, Mr. Benson. We finally meet,” she smiled up at
him coolly.

“Wow!” he looked surprised and, could it be,
disappointed by her switch to coolness? “You don't seem too
thrilled to finally meet me. Does a reputation I don't know about go
before me?”

“No, sorry. I'm pulling myself together from the fall.”

He reached out and touched her shoulder. “You OK?”

She took a step back as his touch sent an electric current zapping
through her whole body.

“I'm fine thank you.” Her voice sounded much stronger
than she felt.

“Well, OK then.” Jack stepped back himself.

At that moment the door flew open and Pete appeared.

“Are you two all right?” he asked. Obviously believing
that they were, and not seeming to notice the tension between them,
he went on, “Sorry, Mouse. I should have warned you Jack was
still in here.”

“Mouse?” echoed Jack as Emma blushed yet again. She
hadn't blushed this much since high school. This time she wasn't sure
if it was caused by anger at Pete or embarrassment in front of Jack.

“It's Em's....” Pete began.

Emma cut him off. “It's Pete's attempt to be funny,”
she said, giving him a stern look, “and it’s not

Pete smiled, seeming to realize he'd made her uncomfortable.
“Sorry Em. I'm still too much of a kid when we get together, I
guess. I forget that you're all grown up and dignified these days.”

She rolled her eyes at him, unable to stay cross for long.

“Let me make the formal introductions more befitting of the
adults we are,” he grinned.

“Aww,” said Jack, “I liked our first
introduction best. Could we try that one again?”

Emma looked at him as he and Pete began to laugh.

“You're as bad as he is,” she said, smiling in spite
of her embarrassment.

“Oh, no. He's much worse than me,” laughed Pete.

Emma shook her head at the pair of them.

“OK. I am going to take what is left of my dignity and leave
now. I'll see you on Saturday, Pete. Nice to meet you, Mr. Benson.”

“Oh, Mouse. At least call him Jack!”

“I think after rolling around the office floor together we
should probably be on first name terms, don't you?” Those eyes
were laughing down at her again.

She shook her head. “Let’s try this again. Pete, I
will see you on Saturday. Nice to meet you, Jack.” With that
she turned and left quickly.

As she stood in the elevator she ran through the events in Pete's
office. How on earth had she managed to knock that man over? He was
so big and strong. Oh, Emma, you sound pathetic. She laughed at
herself, glad she was alone in the elevator. So big and strong…
and so darned sexy, she couldn't help adding.

So she had finally met the mysterious Jack Benson. He'd been
Pete's partner for years. They'd met in college and founded the
Phoenix Corporation together not long afterward. Admittedly, he'd
mostly worked their offices in Texas and on the East Coast, but he
must have been in LA for a year now. She'd have to ask Pete why
they'd never been introduced before. She felt her whole body tremble
as she remembered today’s introduction. On the floor. With that
big arm around her. Protecting her from harm. She tried to chase
those thoughts from her mind. See, she berated herself, this is why
you stay away from men. You turn into a pathetic, mushy little
romantic whenever there is a good looking one around. And the good
looking ones are all about the superficial. They're all about
themselves and how many women they can get through.

BOOK: Love Like You've Never Been Hurt
2.1Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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