Read Tempting Mr. Wrong (Wrong Man) Online

Authors: Kerri Carpenter

Tags: #contemporary romance, #parent, #military, #romance, #Wrong Man, #widow, #Kerri Carpenter, #Lovestruck, #romantic comedy, #category, #solider, #brother’s best friend

Tempting Mr. Wrong (Wrong Man)

BOOK: Tempting Mr. Wrong (Wrong Man)
6.28Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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A little temptation never hurt anyone…

Lance Townsend craves freedom after years living a structured existence in the Army. But just as he’s about to start on his bucket list, Lance receives an unexpected request: check in on his goddaughter. The problem? The adorable little girl’s aunt is the one woman he’s never been able to forget.

Carly Quigley can’t believe her brother’s best friend, the man who jilted her years ago, is at her door. He claims her brother asked him to check in on her niece and their fixer-upper, but all either of them can focus on is their undeniable attraction. Carly knows Lance is counting down the hours to leave, which makes him the wrong man for her. Unfortunately, the wrong man has become oh-so-tempting.

Table of Contents

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

Copyright © 2016 by Kerri Carpenter. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Publisher.

Entangled Publishing, LLC

2614 South Timberline Road

Suite 109

Fort Collins, CO 80525

Visit our website at
www.entangledpublishing.com
.

Lovestruck is an imprint of Entangled Publishing, LLC.

Edited by Alethea Spiridon and Elizabeth Pelletier

Cover design by Heather Howland

Cover art from Deposit Photos

ISBN 978-1-63375-588-8

Manufactured in the United States of America

First Edition April 2016

For my Zumba family

Thank you to Ashley’s Saturday morning class for all of the support! I can’t tell you how much it means to me!

And thank you to my extended Zumba family in Pennsylvania. You know who you are!

Prologue

Dear Lance,

If you’re reading this letter, it means I didn’t make it. Okay, joking here. Although, maybe I shouldn’t be joking about something like this. But, jeez, if a guy can’t kid around about his possible (but highly unlikely) demise, I don’t know who can.

(Yes, Gretchen is rolling her eyes as she reads over my shoulder. I swear, sweetie, I AM taking this seriously.)

Let me get to the point. My gorgeous, although totally anal and overly organized, wife has decided that since we just bought our new house and Mya is the ripe old age of two, we are in dire need of a will. Trust me, I think it’s ridiculous, too. What are the chances?

Anyway, if something were to happen to both me and Gretch, Carly will become Mya’s guardian. Gretch has all kinds of official documents with crazy legal mumbo jumbo at our lawyer’s office. Guess that’s what I get for marrying a paralegal. I’d tell you what it says, but hell if I know. So good luck to my adorable little sister reading through all of that.

That brings me to the reason for this letter. Since Gretch took care of all the technical crap, I thought I’d do this in my own way. Lance, buddy, stop rolling your eyes and snorting.

Let me get serious for a second. Do I think anything is going to happen to me and Gretch? Not really. Hell, I got out of how many army tours without anything too bad going down? But, just in case, and because my wife is making me, I have some requests.

The house we bought, well, it’s my dream house. I know it needs some work. (Gretch just yelled, “That’s an understatement!”) But I always wanted a fixer-upper. Lance, even though you are not as skilled as me, make sure everything is in tip-top shape.

More importantly, I’m asking you to check in on Mya. Make sure she’s healthy and happy. I know Carly will teach her all the girly stuff she needs to know. But perhaps you can do your best friend a solid, and convince her she shouldn’t start dating until she’s thirty. After all, you are her godfather, even if you couldn’t change a diaper for shit last time you visited.

Lance, I’d like Mya to know how to properly hit a baseball. I’m praying she didn’t inherit her mother’s lack of athleticism. None of that T-ball crap. I want her to go straight to the big leagues. First woman in the majors. Make it happen. Also, keep those presents coming. Even at two, I can tell Mya loves the stuff you send her.

So that’s it. Basically, I’m asking you and Carly to work together to make sure my little princess is well taken care of. Oh yeah, make sure Carly stops dating these idiots. I don’t know where she finds these dogs. She needs a nice guy. No more loser assholes. Only the best for her. So watch over her, too. Think you can handle that?


Two years later…

The countdown had begun.

Lance picked up his mail from the unit mailroom, offered a few quick greetings, and then made his way back to his bunk. Before he took a load off on his own neatly made bed, he stopped to say
hi
to one of his twenty bunkmates.

“’Sup, Bing?”

“Townsend,” Fred Bing replied with a nod. He was fiddling with something on his phone.

“What’s the number?” Lance asked.

Fred didn’t even have to look at the calendar hanging next to his bunk with the days marked off in deep red marker. “Forty-two,” he replied quickly with a big grin.

“Someone’s getting closer and closer to going home.”

Lance continued to his bed. If Fred had a little over a month left in this place, that meant Lance had three more months. Initially, he’d made fun of the kid’s calendar, but as time went by, he couldn’t help but feed off his excitement.

Fred would only be done with this tour. He had more to come after that. In Lance’s case, a whole new world was about to open up. In three short months, he would be done with his required eight years of post-college commitment to the army. His time as a soldier would come to an end.

For the first time in his entire life, he would be free of rules and requirements. No one would tell him what to do. He’d grown up with the mother of all strict mothers. Every second of Lance’s childhood had been mapped out and timed to perfection. Lessons and playdates and study time. College hadn’t been much better. He’d taken an ROTC scholarship that required him to be on time, pay attention, and, of course, obey orders.

He leaned back on his bed, still clutching his mail.

Then came his eight years of service. Not that he’d disliked the army. He’d actually really enjoyed the military. But after thirty years of following other people’s schedules and being told what to do, Lance was massively looking forward to being in charge of his life. No rules. No time lines. No responsibilities.

“Still planning on a road trip when you get out?” Fred asked.

Lance shuffled through the envelopes. “You know it.” He had a bucket list that he’d been compiling for the last decade. “Vegas is a must.”

“No shit,” Fred said. “If I were you, I’d hit up Austin, Nashville, and New Orleans.”

“Of course you would.” Lance shook his head. Fred was a southern kid through and through.

When he glanced at the bottom envelope in his pile of mail, Lance paused. His hand shook slightly when he took in the last name in the return address. Nine months had passed, and even seeing the name ‘Quigley’ still caused a huge lump to form in his throat. He threw the rest of the mail on his bed and sat up, eyeing the letter and wondering what in the hell it could contain.

“Who’s it from?” Fred nodded toward the lone envelope that Lance was now clutching so hard he was starting to bend the paper.

“Carly Quigley.”

Fred wiggled his eyebrows. “You been holding out on us, Townsend? Got a girl back home?”

Lance clamped down on the urge to snort. “Nope. Carly is Chris’s sister.”
Was
Chris’s sister, he silently amended.

He rubbed a hand over his jaw as he considered the letter. Chris Quigley, John Campbell, and Lance had been inseparable for years. They’d served together, gone on vacations together, and had each other’s backs in every way imaginable. The Three Musketeers, if those guys had been decked out in camo and hoisted guns in the Middle East instead of wearing tights and feathers.

John had gotten out of the army recently and made his way to some small town in Virginia. Lance missed the guy, but he knew John needed to get out. Too much shit had gone down.

Chris had left a couple years ago. Took a desk job at Fort Bragg, settled down, found a wife. Lance had been stateside for the wedding, and even he couldn’t deny how besotted his best friend was over his new wife.

Before anyone could blink, Chris announced the arrival of his daughter. The guy was living the dream, at least his version of the dream. A transient life with no responsibility would suit Lance just fine right about now. But then the accident claimed the lives of Chris and his wife.

Lance turned the envelope over and over in his hands while he let the fresh reminder of loss pass over him.

“Chris? Your friend that you served with, right?” Fred asked, clearly choosing his words carefully.

“Yep,” Lance replied.

“You still sending those presents to his kid?”

“When I can,” Lance said. He hadn’t seen Chris’s daughter Mya in about two years. As her godfather, it was nothing to ship off a toy or book every couple months.

“Why is Chris’s sister writing you?” Fred asked.

Lance shrugged, trying to keep the gesture nonchalant in an effort to hide the feelings that always bubbled up when he thought of Carly Quigley. He’d known Chris a long time before he actually met Carly, but he sure as hell heard a lot about her. Chris took advantage of every opportunity to mention her. The two had obviously been close.

“Gotta send something to Carly. Her birthday is coming up.”

“Carly graduated with honors from college. Must have gotten her smarts from me.”

“Carly decided to go to grad school. Didn’t I tell you she would get into that master’s program?”

“I’m stoked. Carly’s moving to Pine Springs. She’s gonna live with me and Gretch for a year or so.”

When Chris and Gretchen got married, Lance finally met the infamous Carly in the flesh. Lance refrained from letting out a long whistle now. Without a doubt, she had been the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. Mounds of curly red hair, fair skin, and a bubbly personality that drew him right in.

At the reception, they’d been seated next to each other. She’d kept him entertained with stories from college and her sorority. Then they’d danced together under the stars. If he closed his eyes, he could still feel her in his arms.

He shook his head. Because the thoughts he was having were just as inappropriate now as they were then. More so now. Carly was his best friend’s sister. His younger sister whom he adored. Not to mention, she’d only been, what? Twenty, twenty-one? She’d been a baby.

So when she’d asked him if he’d like to join her for a drink in her room, he’d made up an excuse and high-tailed it out of there so fast, he’d barely had time to notice the hurt expression on her face. Barely.

When Mya had been born, he’d visited as often as his leave schedule allowed. But Carly had never been around. She was either hanging with friends or on vacation. Lance had to wonder if that was on purpose.

“You gonna read that letter or keep stroking it lovingly?” Fred called out.

Lance displayed a finger of choice in response, and then he opened the envelope and pulled out the letter. It was short and sweet, including all the usual pleasantries civilians offered. How are you, hope you’re staying safe, blah, blah, blah. He scanned it over quickly and then froze.

So I was cleaning out Chris and Gretchen’s bedroom the other day, and I came across some of Chris’s things. I found this letter that he’d written a couple years ago. It was addressed to you. I’m not sure why the envelope is torn. It kinda looks like there may have been more to the letter, but I didn’t want to invade your privacy and read it.

I can’t believe it’s been nine months since the accident. I think about him every day. Of course, it’s hard not to when I’m taking care of Mya.

Anyway, I hope you’re doing well and this letter brings you some comfort.

~Carly

Lance scanned the attached letter. He noticed a couple things right away. It was definitely Chris’s handwriting and had his stupid sense of humor. Honestly, who wrote a letter like this?

Carly was right—the envelope had been torn and the letter was incomplete. He was definitely curious what else Chris had to say, although he thought he got the gist of it. Leaning back against his pillow, he reread Chris’s words one more time, slowly this time. When he came to the last part, his pulse picked up and his palms began sweating. Watch over Carly’s dating life? Keep her away from the bad guys? What the hell did that mean?

He read the letter for a third time. Well, he was decent at baseball. Probably could teach the kid a thing or two.

Lance exhaled, long and slow.

Chris’s daughter was living with Carly. She was her guardian. If he was understanding this letter correctly, Chris wanted him to check in on the house and Mya. That could get awkward with Carly, but Lance would suffer through any kind of discomfort if it meant fulfilling his best friend’s wishes.

Scanning the date at the top, Lance did some quick math. This had been written two years ago. The house was likely renovated by now, so he probably wouldn’t need to stay long.

Still grasping the letter, Lance looked up at a picture tacked above his bed. Chris had an arm around Lance with that goofy grin he always wore. Despite appearances, that had been a particularly rough day. They’d almost gotten into some dangerous shit. But, just like always, Chris had saved the day. Saved him. Lance would do anything for the guy.

Fred plopped down next to him. “So, what’s first? One of my choice cities? How about New York? Hanging out in the Big Apple.” He jammed a finger into Lance’s arm. “Or why don’t you blow the U.S. and go hang out in Amsterdam? I heard some crazy shit goes down over there.”

Lance took in Fred then glanced back at the letter.

“You are about to be the man. Total bachelor who can do what he wants, when he wants, where he wants. Come on, Townsend, what’s first?”

A feeling of unease settled over him the way the sand and the dust had been known to cover their temporary home.

“Looks like I’m heading to Pine Springs, North Carolina.”

BOOK: Tempting Mr. Wrong (Wrong Man)
6.28Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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