There’s just two weeks to go until RECKLESS HEARTS goes live, and I can’t wait for you to meet Delilah and Will… So, you don’t have to!
Here’s an exclusive first look at Chapter One. Remember to ADD to your Goodreads list, and PRE-ORDER now for a special sale price of just $2.99!
I pride myself on being a pretty self-sufficient girl: I pay my own bills, change my oil, and thanks to four years at one of the biggest party schools in the South, I’m able to down half my weight in tequila shots and still keep it together well enough to thank my host kindly and take off my makeup before passing out. Whatever comes my way, I can usually handle it with some smarts, a little charm, and if all else fails, a flash of cleavage doesn’t hurt either. I’m a modern woman, hear me roar.
But even my best lace bra (worn today for extra luck) can’t help me now: stranded on the street in the middle of the city trying to break into my own car.
Central locking doesn’t care about charm.
“C’mon, baby,” I beg, trying the door handle again, but it doesn’t budge. My old beat-up Honda would have given up the goods with just a thump in the right spot, but no, I had to go and trade up last year to this shiny new model with AC, mp3 player, and all the bells and whistles. Sure, now I can make the drive into the city without my hair falling into a limp, humid tangle, but I’d take bad hair in a heartbeat if I could hit the road and get back home tonight.
I need this day to be over already.
I sink against the car, shifting my weight to ease the pain in my Power Shoes, aka the three-inch heeled pumps that pinch around the toes, but make me feel invincible for a big meeting. I needed all the good luck I could get today; I was pitching for what could have been the biggest real estate listing of my career—a big new development of beach houses just outside my small town—but somehow, even with the shoes, and the lucky bra, and the twenty-page proposal that I polished until it shone, I still walked out of that boardroom a big fat failure.
I can still taste the defeat. I spent weeks playing phone tag with the CEO to even get the meeting, and weeks more honing my proposal to an irresistible package. But after all that, the smug guys at the head of the table barely even looked at my file before giving me a fake, insincere smile.
“We’re looking for someone with more experience to lead the sales.”
Experience! I’ve sold more real estate in Oak Harbor than anyone, but just the way he sneered at me said he would never take me seriously—not compared to the big flashy companies here in the city who think that expensive ad campaigns can make up for real local knowledge from someone born and raised right there in town. And if that wasn’t bad enough, while I was busy drowning my sorrows with a consolation drink at the bar down the street, someone decided to lift my bag from the back of my seat. I only took my eyes off it for a moment, but that was long enough. Goodbye wallet, farewell phone, adios car keys.
They had to steal my damn car keys.
I blink back tears, determined to keep my mascara intact, if nothing else. I’m stranded on the street with sore feet, no big new deal, and zero way to get home tonight. Could this day get any worse?
An ominous rumble of thunder sounds. I look up at the dark evening sky, thick with rainclouds.
I take a deep breath and try to figure out what to do next. Think, Delilah. No money means no cabs or even a bus home, and I’m four hours from Oak Harbor, so even if I could get to a phone, remember a number, and sweet-talk a friend into coming to pick me up, I would still have hours to kill in a city without a dollar to my name.
That’s OK. I try to stay upbeat. You can be resourceful.
The cute pencil skirt and silk blouse I’m wearing don’t leave much room for break-in tools, but I pinned my hair up this morning in a neat French twist and fastened it with—ta da!—an enamel hair pin. I yank the pin out, crouch down, and try to jimmy it into the lock. This kind of thing looks easy in movies, but when I wiggle the pin around, nothing happens. Hmmm, just a little further—
The car alarm blares to life in an ear-shattering siren.
Passers-by look over, giving me suspicious glares. I can’t exactly blame them, crouched here poking at the lock. I frantically jimmy the hairpin again, and finally, the alarm shuts off.
I sink down to sit on the edge of the curb in defeat. So much for invincible. Maybe you’re not the hotshot you thought you were.
“Do you need any help?”
A voice makes me lift my head. A man has paused on the sidewalk, looking down at me with concern.
A hot, gorgeous vision of a man.
I blink. He’s got dark hair and smoky hazel eyes, standing tall and broad-shouldered in a crisp button-down, suit, and tie. Clean-shaven, strong-jawed, and utterly delicious.
“Umm, no, I’m fine.” I scramble up, smooth down my skirt, and manage to flash him a smile. “Thanks, but unless you moonlight as a car thief, I’m not sure you can help.”
He raises an eyebrow quizzically. Damn, he’s hot.
“I’m locked out,” I explain, nodding to the car. “Someone stole my purse earlier, so I don’t have my keys.”
“Tough break, I’m sorry.” The guy pulls his phone from his back pocket and offers it to me. “Do you want to call someone? Triple A?”
“Thanks, but I live hours from here.” I give a rueful smile. “And I’m pretty sure I let my membership lapse.”
He grins back. “So basically, you’re screwed.”
I laugh, surprised. “Basically, yes.”
“We’ll see about that.” He walks over to the car and crouches down, examining the lock. “Hmmm . . . I guess we’ll have to do this the old-fashioned way. Do you have anything sharp or pointed?”
I pass him the hairpin, watching in surprise as he studiously begins to shimmy the lock. He looks so clean-cut and business-like, not the kind of guy who bends the rules. I’m so busy admiring the way his pants stretch over his ass, I almost forget what happened when I tried that trick.
“Wait!” I exclaim. “Watch out for the—”
The alarm sounds before I can finish warning him, deafening at close range. The handsome stranger quickly shuts it off again. He straightens up, but instead of bidding me farewell and leaving me to my fate, he rolls up his sleeves over tanned, muscular forearms. “Time for Plan B,” he says, sounding weirdly upbeat. “I’m going to need some kind of wedge, some kind of hook or wire, and some gum.”
“You’ve done this before?” I drag my graze away from his sexy arms.
“No, but I watched a guy who did.” The man flashes me a smile. “My sister locked her keys in when we were out in New Jersey. Luckily, we were right across from a construction site. This whole parade of guys came over to help. They’d seen the cops do it, at least, that’s what they all said.”
I laugh. “Of course they did.” I look around, and spot a convenience store on the corner. “OK, well, I’ll see what I can find. And thank you,” I tell him, sincere. “You’re really helping a girl out here.”
“Don’t thank me just yet.” He grins. “I’m Will, by the way.”
“Delilah. I’ll be right back!”
I head towards the store, realizing too late that I have no money or credit cards. I don’t want to go back and ask Will for cash, not when he’s being so generous with his time, so I step into the store and fix the teenage clerk with my biggest smile. He blinks. I flutter a wave.
His jaw drops.
OK, so maybe my bra will be lucky today after all.
Five minutes of sweet-talk later, I emerge with everything Will needed: a door-stop wedge, a wire hanger, and a pack of Wrigley’s spearmint gum. I even took a moment to straighten up in the bathroom and made sure I don’t have car dirt smeared all over my face. After all, you never know if your knight in shining armor will happen to be single and available for a date sometime . . .
“Got it.” I arrive back at the car to find Will checking his phone. I pause, realizing he might have had other plans tonight than hanging out on the street planning a break-in. “If you need to be somewhere, I’ll be fine on my own,” I add, but he tucks the phone away.
“Nowhere better. I just wrapped up my appointments for the day. Besides,” he adds with a mischievous glint to his grin, “I want to see if this actually works.”
“Nothing like a little light breaking and entering on a summer’s night,” I agree.
“Let’s hope there’s no breaking necessary. Now, let me see if I remember how this goes . . .”
He crouches down, and I’m reminded again that those suit pants are a gift to womankind. “Can you jam this between the door and the frame?” he asks, passing me the door-stop. I do as he says, being careful not to scratch the paint, while he straightens out the clothing hanger wire into a long snaking length with a hook on the end. “Now, we jiggle.”
“Is that the technical term?” I tease, as he snakes the wire through the new gap in the car frame. He angles the wire towards the lock button on the inside of the door, and I grip his arm in excitement. “It’s working!”
“Just a little more pressure . . .” Will feeds the wire through some more. Closer, closer—
A stern voice comes. I turn to find a police officer standing behind us, hands on hips and a suspicious glare on his face.
“Um, Will?” I murmur, but he’s too focused on the task in front of him.
“Just a second . . .”
“Will!” I yank his arm. The wire drops to the ground, and finally he turns.
“What? I nearly had it there— Oh, good evening, Officer.” He straightens up and clears his throat. “Now, I understand how this might look . . .”
“And how’s that?” The officer looks from us to the wire, to the car, and back again. Before he can react, I step forward and give him my best innocent “who, me?” look.
“This nice gentleman was just helping me out with a little car trouble.”
“Is that right?”
“I went and got my purse stolen, isn’t that silly of me?” I flutter my eyelashes, hoping this stern cop is as easily swayed as the convenience store clerk. He doesn’t seem impressed. “It’s my car, honest. All my registration information is in the glove compartment.”
“And do you have ID to prove it’s you?” he counters.
“Not exactly . . .” I hedge. “But I can tell you, there’ll be two lipsticks, a power bar, and a spare pair of panties in there with my registration. I’m a regular girl scout,” I wink. “Ready for anything.”
I hear Will snort beside me, so I jam my elbow in his ribs. The cop pauses, thinking, but before he can slap cuffs on us both and cart us off to jail, his radio buzzes on his hip. He holds up one finger to us and answers, murmuring for a moment before he hangs up and looks back at us. “You’ll call triple A?”
I nod enthusiastically. “Right now. Sorry to take your time!”
“Hrmph.” He grunts, then gives a curt nod, turns, and heads back down the block. I wait until he’s around the corner, then sink against the car in relief.
“Oh my god, that was close!” I exclaim, my heart racing. “I thought we were in trouble for sure.”
“What was that, with your eyelashes?” Will looks at me with clear amusement. “I thought you’d lost a contact or something.”
“Those were feminine wiles!” I protest.
“Is that what you call it?” he teases.
“Hey!” I hit his arm again, laughing. “Thank me later, why don’t you? I just saved us both from jail. And orange goes terribly with my complexion.”
“I don’t believe that for a minute. But thank you, Delilah.”
He smiles at me, all hazel eyes and strong jawline, and I can’t help but feel a tiny jolt of something sweet snake into my bloodstream, hot and bold.
My name sounds good on his lips.
My mouth would feel even better there.
Luckily, Will is oblivious to my wandering mind. He picks up the coat hanger. “Ready to give this another try?”
The thunder rumbles again, and it starts to rain; just a smattering of drops for now, but I know, with this humidity, a real downpour is coming soon. “It’s OK, you don’t need to wait around.” I sigh. “The gods have it out for me. I don’t want my terrible luck rubbing off on you.”
“Bad day?” Will looks sympathetic.
“The worst. I had a big pitch, and I bombed. Well, I didn’t even get a chance to bomb,” I correct myself. “They didn’t even give me the chance.”
I shrug. “I’ll bounce back. I always do. What about you? You look all dressed up.”
Will looks down at his suit and gives a wry smile. “I’m in town for a job interview.”
“Oh yeah? How did it go?”
“Fine, I guess.” He pauses, then gives a long sigh, leaning beside me against the hood. “The truth is, I’m not sure I even want the position. I live in New York right now, and I thought maybe moving down here would be the change I’m looking for, but now I wonder . . .” He trails off, his handsome face looking tired for a moment; all worn out. I wonder for a moment what would make a guy like this—so full of wit and easy, relaxed charm—feel so lost.
“It sounds like you’re ready for a fresh start.”
He looks over, surprised. “Exactly. I guess I don’t know where, or what, just yet.”
“Well, if your new beginning needs real estate of any kind . . .” I pull a card from my pocket and pass it over with a flourish. “I’m your girl.”
Will smiles. “Oak Harbor, huh? Whereabouts is that?”
“About four hours that way.” I point south. “It’s the best place in the world.”
“Oh really?” He turns my card over in his hand.
“Really,” I insist, knowing that to some big-city guy, I probably sound like a hick. But I don’t care, not when it comes to the town I love. “I grew up there. It’s right on the shore, some of the most beautiful coastline in the state. It’s a small town, but not nosy or judgmental like a lot of places, we just look out for each other. Then you’ve got the creek, and the woods, and all the wide-open country—”
“OK, OK, I believe you.” Will cuts me off, laughing. “Oak Harbor, huh? Well, if I ever find myself down here again, I’ll let you know.”
I catch his eye. “Make sure you do.”
Will holds my gaze, and I feel that surge of heat rush through me again, stronger this time despite the damp trickle of rain down the back of my neck. I start to wonder if maybe being stuck in the city tonight might have some perks after all. I mean, if Will’s in town on business, that means he’s probably free, and could use a local’s guide to the city . . .
But before I can suggest we go get a bite to eat somewhere, maybe a drink or two, he looks away. “Let’s get you out of this rain and on the road before it really comes down,” he says, picking up his tools. “Wedge?”
“Wedging,” I agree, and jam it between the door frame again. He snakes the wire through the gap, and angles it for the door release. This time, he makes contact. A couple of jabs, and the lock releases.
“You did it!” I open the driver’s door and do a little victory dance. “Oh my god, I can’t believe it actually worked!” I turn back and fling my arms around Will. “Thank you, thank you!”
He laughs, a rumble against me. “My pleasure.”
His body is warm against mine, surprisingly taut and solid under that fancy suit. My pulse kicks from his closeness, and I catch a breath of his scent, fresh and clean, like the woods in spring. I have to fight the urge to slide my arms over the planes of his shoulders to lean in closer and nestle myself in the crook of his arm.
What are you doing, Dee?
I quickly step back, flushing. “I guess if you really want a change, you could turn to a life of crime,” I blurt, covering.
“I’ll put it on the list.” Will looks a little thrown too, and I wonder if he felt the heat from that moment, too—or is just weirded out by being groped by a complete stranger. “Wait.” He pauses. “We got it open, but how are you going to drive?”
“Ta da!” I lean into the car, flip the middle cup-holder, and pull out a key. “And I have a spare under the mat at home, too.”
“You’re all set.” Will grins. “Well, I guess I better get going now.”
“Oh.” I feel a surge of disappointment. For all the bad luck I’ve had today, this part has actually been fun. I don’t want to see him go so soon, but he’s spent enough of his time helping me out. He probably has someplace to be—and a girl to show him a good time once he’s there. “Sure, thanks again. I really appreciate it.”
“Anytime.” Will nods. “So . . .” He pauses like he’s going to say something else, but instead, he nods, and flashes me another heart-stopping smile. “Goodbye, Delilah.”
“Goodbye, Will,” I echo, watching him walk away. Right on cue, there’s another ominous rumble of thunder, and then the light smatter of raindrops turns into a full-on shower. Will picks up the pace, jogging for dry land.
I feel a pang.
I could get in my car right now, hit the road for home, but I can still feel the warm imprint of his body against mine; feeling suddenly, inexplicably right.
“Wait!” I call, taking off after him. I sprint down the block, my feet splashing in the gutters. “Will, wait!”
He stops on the corner and turns back, looking confused. “Wait,” I say again breathlessly, and then before I can think twice, I reach up on my tiptoes, grab him by the tie, and kiss him.
Just like that.
His mouth is soft, cool from the rain, but the feel of his lips against mine is hotter than an inferno. Every last nerve in my system ignites in a heartbeat, screaming to life with red-hot electricity that sizzles and surges, making me arch up closer, wanting more.
For a moment, we’re suspended there, frozen. And he kisses me back.
Will pulls me against him, easing my lips open and sliding his tongue deep in a heady dance that makes my head spin and my knees go weak. The fever of the moment crashes through me, and I hold on for dear life, suddenly lost in the sweet, delicious feel of his mouth, his tongue, his hands gripping my waist tightly, and mmmm, the solid planes of his body, muscular arms crushing me close. I could stay here forever, swept up in something so sweet and wild, but at last, we come up for air.
I step back, my heart pounding, blood singing in my veins. “Thanks again,” I murmur, as the real world slips back into focus. I smooth down his damp shirt and wink. “See you around.”
I turn and walk away before he can say a word, breaking into a run as the rain pours down and I dash to my car through the deluge. I hurl myself inside, slam the door behind me, and catch my breath, my head still spinning.
That was some kiss.
A grin spreads across my face as I buckle up, start the engine, and hit the road again, the wipers doing a furious dance on the windshield. But even through the torrents of rain, I still see Will’s face, back there on the street after I kissed him: his wet hair rumpled, his eyes bright with passion, and those lips . . .
I shiver happily. I haven’t had a kiss like that in, well, forever.
So why didn’t you get his number?
I shake off the scolding voice in my mind. The one thing I’ve learned about guys is the good times never last. Commitment, relationships—they all fall apart in the end, ruined by cheating or lies, or just the ordinary grind of everyday existence. I’ve seen it happen too often to keep believing in that happily-ever-after. No, I decided a long time ago that it’s better to just enjoy the moment for what it is: an amazing moment. A heart-stopping kiss. A wild, adventurous night together. Nothing more—and nothing less, either.
This way, there’s no disappointment. I won’t ever find out that Will leaves dirty laundry on the bathroom floor, or stops calling after a couple of weeks, or has fifteen different online dating profiles and a girl in every state. No mess, no fuss, no angry, painful breakup three months from now that leaves me cursing his name into a bottle of tequila.
He’ll always be the gorgeous guy who helped me out of a tough spot—and who kissed me on a rain-soaked street corner so hard, I forgot my own name.
I tuck the memory away, smiling, and head for home.
TO BE CONTINUED JUNE 27TH!