Read Unworthy Heart: The Donnellys, Book 1 Online

Authors: Dorothy F. Shaw

Tags: #feisty heroine;tattooed heroine;tattoos;single father;opposites;L.A.;Los Angeles;California;office romance;redheads

Unworthy Heart: The Donnellys, Book 1

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Opposites not only attract, sometimes they spontaneously combust.

The Donnellys, Book 1

Ryan Donnelly’s past relationship may have failed, but he’s determined to make single fatherhood and his career a resounding success. He’s got his eye on the top of the ladder at an L.A. marketing firm when his gaze snags on co-worker Maiya Rossini.

She’s a feisty, witty, tattooed redhead who’s nowhere near his type, but she pushes every one of his hot buttons.

Maiya clawed her way out of her dysfunctional, trailer-park childhood to earn a college degree and establish a promising career. Her future dreams are big, bright and packed with full-throttle fun, but when it comes to matters of the heart and men—especially stuffy corporate types like Ryan—her past slams on the emotional brakes.

In the office and in the bedroom, Maiya and Ryan rub each other in all the
ways. Though Maiya is everything Ryan didn’t know he wanted, he’s got his work cut out for him convincing her she’s worthy of love—or the bright light she’s brought to his life could slip through his fingers.

Warning: Contains a lot of graphic, yummy sex. To those prone to lock their bedroom doors, fair warning. In this book, there
no doors, only windows. With no curtains. For those who aren’t afraid to keep their eyes wide open: Enjoy the show!

Unworthy Heart

Dorothy F. Shaw


This one’s for you, Daddy. I wish you were here to read it.

But I know you’re looking down from above and that you’re proud of me.

I love you, and I miss you every single day.


To my dear friend, author, Shawna Thomas for being one of the first people to ever edit my writing. You’ve always encouraged and believed in me when I barely believed in myself. And, for tirelessly editing this book from top to bottom and back again in order to help me beat it into an acceptable story that people might actually want to read. You are appreciated more than I could ever express and I love you dearly.

To my friend, Jen Sylvia, for her awesome editing skills—thank you for taking a ride on the Unworthy Heart train…your help was invaluable.

To my friend, author, Nikki Duncan. Thank you for the swift kick in the behind, coupled with an order to “Finish the damn book!” You were exactly what I needed.

To author, Melissa Ecker for the endless days and nights of writing sprints when I finally decided to finish a novella that accidentally turned into a full novel and then a series. Thank you! I could never put a price on the value of the time spent and the fun and laughs that were had. #TUWANDA!

To my friends, Jennifer and Amy—two outstanding registered nurses for your help with the medical scenes. Your expertise was invaluable.

To my dear friend, author, Saranna DeWylde for your very helpful critique. Lady, not only are you filled with talent, you’re an inspiration and a cherished friend. Thank you.

To my dearest and cherished friend, author, Megan Hart. Thank you for the daily laughs. For being an example of what it takes to do this deal every day, and for reminding me several hundred times that I DO NOT in fact, suck! For this, I will be forever grateful. And for reading this book, not only once, but twice!

To my friend, author, Christa Desir… You are the! And I will always seek your guidance…because you know me too well. Much love and thanks.

To my friend, Jodi G. You breathed life into Jodi’s character. When I read her, I still hear your voice. Thank you for letting me give you life in a book.

To my friend Bill J. Our work banter and friendship was truly a muse for this story. Thank you for graciously allowing me to base Ryan’s character and style on you.

To author, Carrie Clevenger. There are no words except, I love you and thank you.

To my many beta readers: Holly T., Lu E., April (Stitch), Alissa J., Marchelle L., Leslie J., Trenda L., my cousin, Sherri Z. (Sherri, you read this three times! I love you!), Dawn V. and Tere H. Thank you! Your feedback was extremely helpful and appreciated. You all rock!

There’s an endless list of people I’m probably forgetting to thank for their help and encouragement since I started this crazy journey into writing six years ago. I want you all to know, your help was and is appreciated.

And finally, to my ex husband, author T.D. Hoffman for his patience, support, plotting help, and, did I say patience? Thank you for always cheering me on and helping me to chase my dream.

Chapter One

“Cutting it a little close aren’t you, Maiya?”

Dammit, she was. Her hair always took forever when she was in Los Angeles. And the last thing she wanted was to look like crap the first time she met Ryan Donnelly face to face.

“Of course, boss. There’s no excitement in actually making it on time.” Maiya stepped out of the elevator and pulled off her sunglasses. “Besides, I’m not in the office all that much these days. It takes time to change out of my work-from-home uniform of hair scrunchies, tank tops and boxer briefs to appropriate business attire.”

“Very true.” Tony tilted his head down, peering at her over the top of his frameless glasses perched on the end of his nose. “Three months is too long for you to not pay a visit.”

She brushed her hair away from her face. Relocating from Las Vegas to Los Angeles eight years ago to start her job with Amaryllis Marketing Firm had been a leap of faith for her, but it’d paid off tenfold. And the man in front of her was a huge part of the reason why. Plus, when she had needed to move back to Vegas to care for her mother, Tony had allowed her to stay on, working remotely from home. He’d earned her respect and loyalty in spades and she couldn’t imagine working for anyone else. “Blame the finance group and their travel budgets. You know I’d rather be out here at least once a month.”

His handsome smile crinkled the corners of his eyes and he ushered her into the conference room. “Also true. Regardless, glad to have you here now.”

Maiya entered and excitement raced through her. “Thanks.” They grabbed a seat along the back row against the windows and she nodded to the familiar faces in attendance around the conference room table. She loved connecting with the people she worked with on a daily basis but rarely saw face to face. A sense of comfort spilled through her, like she’d come home again.

The senior marketing executive, Mr. Mawbry, spoke to the room, and the conference phone in the center of the table. “Good morning, everyone. Thank you for joining the monthly project status meeting.”

Notebook and pencil in hand, Maiya scanned her surroundings. Taking a deep breath, her excitement settled and pride took its place. Maiya had done hella good for herself sticking with this company. She’d worked her way up the corporate ladder, rung by rung, and found success.

There were a few new faces in attendance and curiosity pranced through her mind. Did any of them belong to Ryan? They’d only recently started collaborating on a project together. Their conversations, which had started out professional, had begun to slip into the land of flirtation. Dangerous territory, yes, but regardless, Maiya would kill to know what he looked like. She’d checked his Facebook account—in a purely non-stalkerish way—but had come up empty-handed. His page was locked down like Fort Knox. Sad thing was, she had a feeling Ryan resembled a corporate Ken Doll.

Annnd surprise, surprise, Maiya was
like Barbie.

At least meeting him face to face would be the dose of reality necessary to evaporate her physical reaction to him, and focus on work again. She hoped, anyway.

One of the project managers in attendance kicked the group off and reported on their campaign. Maiya checked her notes for any details she might need to report on for her particular project. At the sound of an additional male voice, her head snapped up.
He sounds familiar.

The guy turned and looked at her.

Their eyes locked and a bolt of electricity arced between them. The jolt shot straight to Maiya’s toes.
Hello, Gorgeous and totally not my type
. She drew in a deep breath and let her gaze roam over his short, sandy light-brown hair, high cheekbones and crystal blue-gray eyes. And his lips.

He flashed her a quick smile.

My God, that can’t be Ryan.
Jesus, if that’s him, I’m in a fuckton of trouble.
Maiya broke their stare and returned her focus to her notepad, tapping it with her pencil—a pale attempt to convince herself the guy
was not

A few minutes later, Mr. Mawbry spoke again. “Ryan, could you please report the status of your campaign?”

Maiya searched the unknown faces, desperate to find him among the team, when Mr. Gorgeous started talking. “Oh. Shit,” she muttered.

Ryan glanced at her, a devilish grin adorning his lips.

Double shit.
She couldn’t stop herself from staring while he spoke. Especially at his lips. She really liked his lips. This was
not good. This wasn’t in the plan. It was bad enough his voice got her aching and wet, but…his face. That mouth. Those lips—she could
be attracted to him. Absolutely out of the question.

She had to work with him, for fuck’s sake!

As the Senior Project Manager assigned, Ryan gave his report. Maiya answered the few questions some of the other executives in attendance had. She had to pry her tongue off the roof of her mouth in order to speak, but she’d managed. Maybe the corporate ladder hadn’t paid off as well as she thought.

The group moved on to the next project on the agenda. Still warm and tingling from the intense eye lock with Ryan, Maiya blew out a harsh breath, trying to cool down. After a few more projects were discussed the meeting adjourned. She bent to retrieve her things from the floor by her seat. If she didn’t get some air, and fast, she might spontaneously combust.

A set of long legs entered her line of sight.

Her gaze traveled up his casual khaki pants, over his chest, clad in a pale blue Polo shirt—the color emphasizing the blue in his eyes—and then settled on his lips.
With burning cheeks, she stood and raised her eyes to meet his.

“Maiya Rossini, I assume.” Ryan extended his hand to shake hers. “Nice to finally meet you.”

She placed her palm in his and drank him in. In hopes of playing it cool, she cleared her throat before speaking. “Ryan Donnelly. Yes, it’s nice to meet you too.”

His long fingers curled around her hand and he smiled. Tingles danced up her arm. Being right in front of him now and touching him queued up every hormone in her body.
This is crazy!
She was caught between wanting to run in the other direction or throw herself at him and beg him to drag her somewhere private.

They assessed each other for a moment, saying nothing before she mentally kicked herself in the ass and broke the silence. “My team is having a gathering tonight. You joining us?” With regret, she extricated her hand from his very warm one.

“I’ll have to see if I can make it. What time again?”

“Thinking of blowing off fun team-building time?” She raised her brows. “Six, I believe. Check your calendar. I’m sure you were sent an invite.”

He tilted his head to the side. “I wouldn’t dream of blowing off ‘fun team time’. As if you’d let me get away with doing that anyway.”

“Good to know.” Unable to help herself, she glanced at his lips again. With mammoth effort, she forced her gaze away, took her seat and finished gathering her things.

She was having a hell of a time looking him in the eye, and making small talk wasn’t any easier. Her skin was tight all over and her cheeks were flaming hot. Struck stupid was a damn understatement. Her reaction bothered her.

And he bothered her.

Ryan stepped a couple feet away to talk to another team member.

Maiya took the opportunity to escape. She needed air. And a cigarette. Maybe a cold drink of water too. “See you later, Ryan. I gotta run.”

“Bye, Maiya. Guess I’ll see you la—”

Ducking her head, Maiya rushed from the room.

Chapter Two

Ryan entered the banquet room of the restaurant and glanced around. There were plenty of work faces, but he was interested in finding only one. Zeroing in on the bar, he spotted her and so did his dick, which jumped to attention in his pants.
Down boy.
After seeing her in person, there was no way in hell he
would’ve blown this little shindig off.

The woman was damn alluring. Pure temptation. Her long, flaming-red hair with streaks of blonde and black in it—not natural of course—suited her. The thick locks called to him, made him want to run his fingers through them, and then grip them tight in his fist. Full lips lined to perfection with a touch of gloss to enhance them—another Siren’s call. What flavor did she use? Maybe strawberry? His favorite.

But damn, she was trouble. Trouble with a capital T, wrapped up in a hot body and a pretty face, with a smart mouth. The electricity shooting between them when he caught her gaze earlier today was intense as hell, but also a massive orange neon sign flashing
Danger! Danger!
Ryan needed to avoid her. Sleeping with anyone from work was off limits in his book. He needed to collaborate with her on his campaign, not wonder what her lips tasted like. Ryan was determined, no matter what the other brain located south of his belt thought, to maintain a professional relationship with her.

No problem.

Easy. Yes. Easy.

He moved through the crowd to get a better view. She still wore her work clothes. A royal blue blouse, tailored to fit her torso, hugged her full breasts revealing enough cleavage to make his mouth water for more. She probably looked amazing naked.
The woman was hotter than hell in four-inch heels, and more tempting than the devil himself.

Maiya sat on a stool with her back resting against the bar, glass of wine in hand, talking to her manager. With her long legs crossed, she bounced one high-heeled foot, her damn skirt clinging to her full hips.

The sight was enough to make any man go insane with lust.

Hanging back, Ryan exchanged hellos with some of their colleagues, but every few seconds he glanced over at her. He was stalling. Nervous even. He rubbed his palms on his thighs.
It’s just Maiya.
He needed to get a grip on whatever emotion or fantasy she stirred in him. No biggie, right? They’d talked daily on the phone, and they were professionals.

Ryan drew in a deep breath and did his damnedest to put a lid on his thoughts…and desires. Stepping to the bar, he was careful to stay a few feet away from her. He could do this. With his back turned, he ordered a Jameson on the rocks.

Maiya spotted Ryan when he entered the banquet room. The air around her had shifted and popped with electricity, dancing along every inch of her skin the minute he walked through the door. She’d been stealing little glances of him while he talked with colleagues and she chatted with her boss. He was still in his cut-out-of-a-magazine work attire. So
her type. Except for his lips, those were her type. And his eyes, and his…

As she watched him make his way around the room, Maiya decided Ryan was edible. And that little admission annoyed the crap out of her. Regardless, call it denial or self-preservation, she was sticking to her first assessment. Ryan wasn’t even in the same room, let alone the same building, as her type. Yet, here she was, salivating over Mr. Corporate Ken Doll.

None of her physical reactions made sense. Maiya dated bad boys—tattooed bikers or musicians. Pretty boys weren’t attracted to her. Most times, she intimidated the hell out of them. Even in her teen years. And although she cleaned up nice, she’d never be the type the pretty boys brought home to Momma.

So what in the hell was with this attraction to Ryan? He made her laugh, yes, and he challenged her, daily. But that couldn’t be it, right? Annoyed, and done with her mental tug of war, Maiya swirled her wine in the glass, took hold of the liquid courage pulsing through her system, and spoke up. “Well, well. Decided to show, huh?”

Ryan glanced over his shoulder, a smoldering fire burning in his eyes. Maiya licked her lips. He faced her. “You were waiting for me, weren’t you?”

“Nah, not really. More like curious if you’d actually grace us with your presence. I have it on good authority you never make it to these things.” She sipped her wine and met his gaze in flirtatious challenge, hoping he’d take the bait.

A look flashed in his eyes, but was gone faster than she could decipher it. “It’s true, I can’t always make these events, but I wouldn’t have missed this one for the world, Maiya.”

Raising her glass, she saluted his. “Hmm. Good to know.”

Maiya hopped off the stool and sauntered toward the table where Rahul and Jodi were sitting. What did he mean by that? Because
was there? No, that couldn’t be why…could it?
Maiya glanced over her shoulder. He stood there and watched her, a smirk adorning his lips.
Those fucking lips. Kill me.

Jodi looked up, her blue eye shining. “Hey, girl.”

Maiya tousled Jodi’s long blonde curls when she passed behind her and then took a seat. “What’s up, chica?”

Rahul’s pretty brown eyes, framed by long, dark lashes, smiled right along with his lips. “Hey, Maiya.”

Maiya blew a kiss to Rahul across the table. She took in the sight of her two friends and the deep sense of comfort returned, flowing through her veins. She missed them, Jodi especially, and having this time with them meant the world to Maiya. She lived for her business trips to L.A. “Work vacations”, she called them. They brought her off-kilter world back to center, giving her what she lacked in Vegas: Freedom and normalcy. Not that she knew what normal was, but what she had here in L.A., with her friends, was the closest she’d ever gotten to it.

The waitress deposited a huge plate of nachos in the center of the table. Maiya leaned back in her seat and sighed.

Jodi dug in first, scooping up a chip heaped with meat and cheese, and shoved it in her mouth. “So what’s up with you and Ryan?” she said around her mouthful.

“Nice. Your lack of home training’s showing.” Maiya grabbed her own handful and took a bite. “Nothing. Why do you ask?” She crunched the chip in her mouth.

Rahul chuckled.

Both Maiya and Jodi turned to him. “What?” they said in unison.

“Never mind.” Rahul raised both brows and took a swig of his beer.

“Yeah,” Jodi continued, “I’m
soooo not buying the ‘nothing’ answer. There’s something simmering between you two. It’s as plain as the nose on my face.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.” Maiya swallowed the last of her wine.

“Mmhm. Right.” Jodi shoveled in another helping.

Rahul set down his beer and then ran his palm over his dark, close cropped hair. “Incoming.”

Maiya glanced to her left and her eyes went wide. Ryan approached their table, two drinks in hand: a glass of wine and a glass two fingers full of amber liquid with ice.
Guess he took the bait.
Her stomach tightened into a knot and her mouth went dry.

He set the wine next to her empty glass and then took the seat next to her. “Mind if I join you all?”

“Of course not, and thanks for the refill.” Maiya took a sip of the fresh wine, trying to drown the nerves break-dancing in her stomach. “I definitely appreciate a man who brings me alcohol.”

Ryan exhaled an exaggerated gasp. “Maiya Rossini, that was almost a compliment.”

Maiya raised both brows and set her glass down. “I give compliments. Ask Jodi. I tell her how wonderful she is all the time.”

“Yes, she does.” Jodi sipped her beer.

“Maiya’s really quite sweet.” Rahul shrugged one shoulder. “You know…when she isn’t bossing everyone around and being a bitch.” He snickered and motioned like he was about to hide under the table.

Jodi choked on her beer and coughed.

Ryan laughed.

“Haaayy, I am
a bitch.” Maiya’s mouth dropped open and she looked among the three of them. “Jerks.” She laughed.

Ryan cleared his throat, stifling his laughter and raised his hands in defense. “Whoa there. I know better than to say something like that.”

Maiya shrugged. “Okay, fine. I’m a bitch.” She picked up her glass and turned to Jodi. “If getting the job done makes me a bitch, then call me the queen. Am I right, chica?”

Jodi tapped the tip of her beer bottle to Maiya’s wineglass. “Got that right, girl.”

“I couldn’t agree more.” Ryan took a swig of his whiskey.

“Oh, great. Thanks for the back-up.” Rahul grabbed a chip off the plate.

“Hey, I’m no fool. I’ve got to work with her.” Ryan shook his finger at Rahul.

Maiya brushed her hair off her shoulder and glanced at Ryan. He was being such a suck-up. After all the times he debated, argued and challenged her over work issues during their many phone calls, this new side of him was quite out of character. It made her wonder what his motive was behind it. “Damn straight you do.”

Ryan gave her a nod and raised his drink to his lips. Their eyes caught for a moment, but she couldn’t help but let hers travel over his face and then zero in on his mouth. He sipped his drink. Maiya licked her lips.
God help me.
Heat radiated through her body and her nipples hardened. She caught herself before she drooled down her chin, and jerked her gaze back to his eyes.

A lazy smile spread across Ryan’s mouth.

Maiya’s cheeks burned hot.

“You okay there, Maiya?” Ryan asked in a low voice.

She cleared her throat.
Way to go.
He’d caught her staring—and damn, she hated that. Where in the hell had her liquid courage gone? “Yes.”

Maiya tried to focus on the conversation in progress with Rahul and Jodi in hopes of distracting herself from the man sitting oh-so-close to her.
What the hell are we talking about?
The waitress had brought another round of drinks and two more plates of snacks to the table, though when that’d happened she couldn’t recall. Everything fell into a slow blur, yet her sensitivity to all things around her popped into hyper-overdrive—or at least, to Ryan being next to her.

Halfway through her third glass of wine, Maiya’s head buzzed a little too loud, and she tugged at Jodi’s sweater. “Hey, come outside with me. I want to smoke.”

“Okie dokie.”

With Jodi in tow, Maiya glanced over her shoulder to Rahul and Ryan. “Be back soon.” She exited the building, turned to Jodi and fanned herself. “Jeez, I needed some air.”

“No kidding. It got a bit steamy in there. I’ll ask again, what in the Lord’s name is up with you and Ryan?”

“Wha—” Maiya’s answer came out in a tipsy squeak. Clearing her throat, she tried again. “What the hell are you talking about?”

“Oh, you know just what I’m talking about.”

“There is absolutely nothing going on with me and Ryan.”

Jodi rolled her eyes and leaned against the railing enclosing the outdoor patio. “Mmhmm. Okay, Maiya. Whatever you say.”

“Well for fuck’s sake. Is it that obvious?” Maiya lit her cigarette and sucked in a long drag, exhaling the gray smoke in a stream above them.

“Hell yeah it is. There’s some serious sexual tension between you two.”

“Shit.” She took another drag. “This cannot happen, Jodi. You know it as well as I do. What the hell am I going to do?”

A wide grin spread across Jodi’s lips. “Fuck him, and then tell me all about it. You know, so I can live vicariously through you.”

“Oh my God, Jodi! I can’t believe you just dropped an F bomb!”

“Lighten up, huh?”

Maiya rolled her eyes. “Do you think he’d keep it on the down low?”

“Oh hell, who knows girl. Who cares? You’re both single.” She grabbed Maiya’s cigarette and took a drag.

“Yeah, but…it’s work, you know?” Maiya furrowed her brow, scrunching up her nose. “I don’t know. It’s a risk.” She snatched the cigarette back from Jodi, took a final drag and then put it out in the ashtray.

“You worry too much. Besides, when have you ever been afraid of a little risk?” Jodi ran her fingers through her long hair. “Get in there and work it, like I know you know how to do. You eat guys like Ryan Donnelly for breakfast.” She nodded, indicating that was the final say on the matter.

Maiya squinted. “What has gotten into you?”

“What? I’m fine. Come on, let’s get back in there.” Jodi walked toward the door.

Maiya shook her head in disbelief and followed her friend. “You have
to get out more.”

When they got back to the table, Ryan was missing. Relief spread through her like a cool drink of water. As Maiya chatted with her friends, she couldn’t help but keep an eye on the door in case he showed again. When she finished her wine, Maiya’s relief morphed into hot agitation, pulsing hard beneath her skin. He’d left and hadn’t said goodbye to her.

The crowd thinned and Rahul left for home. Maiya, not ready for the night to end, convinced Jodi to head to Flanagan’s. She went into the bathroom first to freshen up. Feeling brave from her wine, she sent a text to Ryan asking him where he’d gone.

A few minutes later, her phone buzzed, the label she’d assigned his number popping up. It made her laugh every time he texted her.

Ryan Painintheass:
Oh hey! Sorry, had to meet a few buddies. What are you up to?

Not much. Heading to Flanagan’s. You should come hang out.

Screw it. Maiya wanted another shot at hanging with him. She also wanted to see if the sparks between them would continue. If not, fine. At least she’d know for sure and all parties involved would be safe. Why not, right?

Ryan Painintheass:
Who’s going and when are you heading there?

Me and Jodi. Rahul had to get home. Leaving in about 5 mins.

Ryan Painintheass:
I may stop by. My buddies were just taking off.

Cool. See you soon.

Pleased with herself, she applied a new coat of lipstick and fluffed her hair. Let the games begin. Maiya met Jodi in front of the restaurant. “I’m ready. Let’s go.”

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