Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Fearless in Love is ready for Preorder!!


I hope you’re all dying for the next installment of the Maverick Billionaires, just like I am! Bella and I are working on the revisions right now, and I think you’ll all fall in love with Matt and Ari just the way we have. I’m so excited that the preorder is up for all of you and the book will be released in time for your summer beach read on June 15, 2016!

A quick note: Be sure to drop to the Sales and Freebies section to see what I’ve got going for you!

So let me tell you about Fearless in Love. Remember the end of Reckless in Love, at the grand opening of Sebastian’s headquarters??!! And Matt spies the beautiful Ariana Jones just on the other side of the fountain…

Oh, I just adore this cover. Matt is such a hottie!

Here’s more about Matt and Ari’s beautiful story.

After growing up dirt poor in a seedy Chicago neighborhood, Matt Tremont seemingly has it all now—brains, brawn, and billions. And most importantly, Noah, his five-year-old son, the one good outcome of a disastrous relationship that destroyed his last ounce of trust. The only thing he’s lacking is the perfect nanny for his son. And Ariana Jones is absolute perfection. Utterly enchanting. Completely fascinating. And totally off limits.

Like a match made in heaven, this is Ari's dream job. Swallowed up in the foster care system after losing her brother and mother, Ari has always dreamed of family. She showers five-year-old Noah with all the love she’s kept bottled up inside. Love she could also offer to her gorgeous billionaire boss—if only he weren’t the very last man she could ever hope to have.

But when sizzling sparks of attraction turn into a forbidden, sinfully hot night of pleasure, will Ari’s love be enough to make Matt forget the past and love fearlessly?

Preorder Fearless in Love, Book 3, coming June 15  Kindle  Kindle UK  Kindle CA  iBooks  iBooks UK  iBooks CA  iBooks AU  Nook  Kobo
Print

If you missed the first two books in the Maverick Billionaire series, here’s where you can catch up before Book 3 comes out!

Breathless in Love, Book 1, Will and Harper  Kindle  Kindle UK  Kindle CA  Kindle AU  Nook  iBooks  iBooks UK  iBooks CA  iBooks AU  Kobo  Google Play 
Print 
Audible  iTunes

Reckless in Love, Book 2, Sebastian and Charlie Kindle  Kindle UK  Kindle CA  iBooks  iBooks UK  iBooks CA  iBooks AU  Kobo  Nook  Nook UK  Google Play  
Print 
Audible  iTunes

 
Freebies and Sales!

First, I’d love you to try out my audiobooks. So here’s the deal: To 10 people who email me, I’ll give you the code for a free Audible audiobook of Revenge, Book 1, West Coast Series. The only thing I’d like in return is an honest review once you’ve listened! Sound like a deal? Enter this drawing by sending an email to jenniferskully at gmail dot com.

 
Dead to the Max, Max Starr Series, Book 1 is still free!


She’s Gotta Be Mine is FREE! Try Book 1 of the Cottonmouth Series.


Try Somebody’s Lover, the first book in the The Jackson Brothers Trilogy for FREE!

Monday, February 15, 2016

Excerpt Chapter 2 of Desire Actually!


I hope you all had a fabulous Valentine’s Day! We’ve got Norwegian relatives visiting, and it was great fun celebrating the holiday with them!
 
Desire Actually, Book 1 in After Office Hours is available now! Just for fun, I thought I’d give you another taste, Chapter Two! If you didn’t read Chapter One, be sure to go back to the previous blog for that. And away we go!

Desire Actually

After Office Hours, Book 1

© 2016 Jennifer Skully

Chapter Two

Jordana licked the gloss on her lips. Grady could almost taste the fruitiness of it. His blood roared in his ears, rushing straight down.

He’d never cheated on his wife, never wanted to, never even thought about it. God help him, though, he was thinking about it now. What had seemed inconceivable in the aftermath of Darlene’s divorce email consumed him now. He couldn’t even bring his wife’s face to mind. Maybe it was the anger flushing away the image, but all he saw was Jordana’s lush mouth, and he fell headlong into the deep blue of her eyes, suddenly under the influence of her fast-acting citrusy scent. It seeped in through his pores and took him over. Their proximity revealed the slight rise and fall of her chest with each shallow breath she took. His gaze focused on a lock of her brunette hair against the rapid flutter at her throat. He had the insane urge to bend down and lick her right on that pulse point.

Back up, back up, back up.

The danger signal rang in his head. Taking that first step away was the hardest move he’d ever made.

“I understand.” He sounded disgustingly wheezy.

“Do you?” Her voice was still husky, hypnotic.

Hell, yes, he understood intensity, and he was desperate right now. His fingers curled with the need to touch her. His mouth salivated as if she were a savory-sweet piece of meat. His head ached with the fear that he’d lost his mind. Because she wasn’t his wife and he shouldn’t be feeling any of this.

“Teach me.” His voice actually cracked in the middle.

“Teach you what?”

The distance between them shrank. His back was against the wall—physically as well as metaphorically—and he didn’t even know how he’d gotten there. “How to make a woman feel desired.” He gritted his teeth. “How to make my wife feel desired.” He stressed the word. It needed stressing. His wife. Not Jordana.

The spell around them shifted, space stretched like elastic, and she was no longer within breathing distance. He wasn’t sure she ever had been. It might have been his imagination.

“Are you asking me to give you lessons?”

“Pointers. Examples,” he said quickly. “Like what you just told me.”

They still spoke in hushed voices. Her gaze slid down to his mouth, and a lick of heat passed through him. He told himself that he wanted the theoretical side of desire, but he couldn’t help wanting to know more about what turned her on.

“Kissing.” The word sizzled on her lips.

“Kissing,” he repeated. “I can do kissing.”

“Not just any old kiss.” Her mouth curved in the slightest yet sexiest of smiles. “Wrap your hand gently around my throat. Or cup my face in your palms. Hold me still, devour me with just your lips, nothing else touching, not our bodies, not even our arms. Nothing but the heat between us.”

She created an image so tangible that he could taste her on his tongue. His breath came faster, and his pulse beat against the surface of his skin. He needed a demonstration. He wanted…

“You need to watch some chick flicks.”

He wasn’t sure he’d heard correctly. “Chick flicks?”

Her smile flashed, her hands moved, animation exciting all her facial muscles. “Bridget Jones’s Diary.”

Good God. Bridget Jones’s Diary? A man had to have some limits.

She recognized his shock. “When Colin Firth kisses her at the end, it’s to die for.”

“Then I can just fast forward to the end.”

“No-ooo,” she exclaimed in two syllables and a wave of her hands. “If you don’t see the entire thing, you won’t get why the kiss is so hot.”

He didn’t think he’d get it if he watched the movie five times, but then the sparkle in her pretty blue eyes clued him in. “You’re making fun of me.”

She would have been completely serious except for the slight twitch of her lips. “Of course not. And there’s a reason they’re called chick flicks. Because we—” She put a hand to her chest, at which point he thought he might have a heart attack. “—love them. And why? Because they depict what we desire.”

“So I can learn everything I need to know from watching chick flicks?” God forbid.

She laughed. He’d heard her laugh before. After all, he’d seen her five days a week in the nine months since she’d been hired. The lovely sound, however, had never resonated inside him to the point that he missed the next thing she said. “What?” he had to ask.

“Not what, but who. James.” As if just the first name said it all, she sighed, affecting a dreamy gaze. “He’s an actor. Becoming Jane. Boy, can that man kiss. Oh, oh.” She fluttered her hands at him. “Penelope. He’s in that movie, too, and he kisses her the same way. Like he’s been thinking about it for months, years even, and suddenly he can’t stop himself.”

He didn’t know who this James person was. “Becoming Jane. Boy, Can That Man Kiss. And Penelope. I haven’t heard of any of those movies.” Becoming Jane sounded familiar for some obscure reason he couldn’t recall, but the other two were a mystery. Darlene had never been the chick-flick type.

Jordana gave him that tinkling laugh again, covering her mouth with her hand. “It’s not a movie. I meant that James can really kiss. Penelope is sort of a fairy tale. And Becoming Jane is about Jane Austen.”

“So watching these movies is supposed to teach me how to kiss?”

She shrugged, a sexy little shimmy that seemed to twist through her whole body. She’d laughed, shrugged, and done all those things in front of him before, he was sure, but her gestures had never elicited a response like this. He’d never even actively noticed. It had all been subliminal. But somehow, from the moment she’d told him exactly how to make her melt with desire, he couldn’t stop noticing.

“It’s a start,” she said. “But it isn’t just the kiss. It’s all the stuff leading up to the kiss. The dance. The furtive looks. The subtext. The innuendo.” She rolled her eyes like a teenage girl, and he was suddenly aware of their twelve-year age difference. “You’re married,” she added. “You must have done the dance at some point.”

“I’ve been married for fifteen years, and we dated for five years before that.” They’d both thought it was reasonable to get their careers going strong before getting married. “It’s been a long time.”

“That’s your problem then. You’ve forgotten. You need reminding.”

Jordana had certainly reminded his body of something.

She gasped. And that did more strange things to him. “You’ve got to watch Castle. I think it takes them something like five seasons of that show to finally get there.” In her excitement, she bounced a couple of times on the toes of her high-heeled shoes. “And Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Not the Angel thing, but Spike.”

He didn’t have a clue what she was talking about. Except that Buffy the Vampire Slayer was some sort of teenage angst show about vampires… and teenage girls.

Sighing exaggeratedly, she caressed him with another dreamy smile. “The whole secret love-hate relationship is so sexy. It’s totally what women want. We want the fantasy. That we’re the only one and you’ll do anything to have us.”

That dreamy smile was getting to him, making his heart kick and his palms sweat. Not to mention other things. But a man truly did need to have his limits. “No self-respecting man of forty-two watches chick flicks and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”

She put her hands behind her back and took one step too close to him. He couldn’t think when she was this close. Or rather, he thought too much about things he shouldn’t even allow into his married brain. “Are you saying,” she said, deadly soft, “that you’re not willing to do anything, absolutely anything, to get your wife back?”

The challenge jerked him out of the sexual daze he’d fallen into. Darlene had left him and not five minutes later, he was entertaining inappropriate thoughts about another woman. A much younger woman with gorgeous blue eyes and sexy, messy, silky dark chestnut hair and… other attributes he had no right speculating about. And she’d just voiced the only question that really mattered: Was he willing to do absolutely anything to get Darlene back?

“You’re angry right now.”

Her remark brought her face into focus again. She’d heard his side of the phone argument, and he was pretty damn sure he’d revealed everything in the heat of the moment. “You could say that.” He could feel his teeth start to grind again.

“But do you really want to throw away fifteen years of marriage?”

In his anger, yes. If Darlene was cheating on him, definitely. But if he was completely honest, did she bear the entire blame? Or had he simply dug a hole so deep in the sand that it covered not only his head, but sucked in his whole body, too? He’d been comfortable with their life, but he’d never asked if she was. He’d taken everything for granted. He was complacent, just as Darlene had claimed. It didn’t justify cheating or excuse divorce by email, but did he want their marriage to be over without even a fight? “I don’t know.”

He was answering Jordana. He was answering himself.

“So show her what she thinks she’s been missing. It certainly couldn’t hurt.”

He tried to lighten the moment. “It could if anyone found out I turned into a chick-flick addict.”

Her mouth in a half smile, she drew her fingers across her lips. “Totally sealed.”

He sighed, trying to sound dramatic. “All right, you win. But I don’t have Netflix, and I’m not even sure where there’s a video store.” In the age of mail-order DVDs and streaming, most of the video stores had gone out of business.

She beamed in high wattage. “You’re in luck. I have them all on DVD and I’ll let you borrow them.”

“Wonderful,” he said dryly.

“And for every movie you watch, I’ll give you a gold star.”

“Great.” He almost groaned. “I’ll be the teacher’s pet.”

She clapped her hands. “Doris Day and Clark Gable in Teacher’s Pet. I forgot to mention all the classics you should watch, too. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Pillow Talk. An Affair to Remember. They’re fabulous.” She cocked her head. “Although the kisses aren’t quite the same as you see in movies today.” Then she added with huge affectation, “Oh my gosh, we can’t forget Love Actually. Yeah, Love Actually is totally perfect.” She gave him a cheeky smile. “So many chick flicks, so little time.”

What the hell had he gotten himself into?


* * * * *


The next morning, preparations for the quarterly company meeting commandeered everyone’s focus. Rhonda wasn’t satisfied with the changes Jordana had made to her presentation, despite the fact that they were exactly what she’d asked for. Jordana was also in charge of making sure the cafeteria was converted into a makeshift auditorium with enough chairs, bottles of water, the right AV equipment, that all the VPs had their updated agenda, and on and on.

She didn’t have a moment to pass over the DVDs she’d brought for Grady. She hadn’t stopped thinking about last night. He’d made her laugh, especially with his obvious horror at having to watch chick flicks. Sometimes attraction was like a bolt of lightning the first time you saw a man, that chemical thing that tripped all your nerve endings. Other times it was slow-growing, until one day you realized your feelings for a guy had been percolating inside you. This was somewhere between the two, where lightning struck and suddenly made her see Grady Masterson as far more than the VP across the hall.

Of course, he was married, even if his wife had just dumped him. And Jordana stuck strictly to single men.

Over the years, she’d been absorbed by her career, and dating had never been top priority. Men tended to get in the way, wanting you to divide your attention between your work and their needs. That was one of the reasons she didn’t go in for long-term relationships. Besides, keeping everything short-term meant there was less chance of being hurt or getting dumped. She also wasn’t ashamed to admit she liked hot, fast, and intense, something with a bit of an illicit nature, like sneaking away at lunch for a quickie. She preferred the high of lust versus the pressure of a relationship, at least until she’d achieved her career goals. That didn’t mean she would never think about marriage. She saw herself as a mother eventually, and having her dad run off when she was only three—no calls to check on her, no letters, not even a card on her birthday—had taught her that a child needed both parents. So she’d get married at some point in the future, but at thirty years old, there was plenty of time ahead of her for all that.

Her career came first right now, and she’d fallen behind right out of the gate. It took her three years to finish junior college because she was working at the same time. Same with university. She’d had a scholarship to San Francisco State, but she’d worked as well and couldn’t handle a full load of classes every term, so she’d graduated later than planned.

“Hello. Earth to Jordana.”

Jordana nearly fell off her high heels. Squatting on the floor to arrange bottles of water and cans of soda in the ice filling the metal tubs, she hadn’t even heard Rhonda crossing the floor in her sensible, rubber-soled shoes.

“I asked if you’d loaded my presentation on the laptop. And you were a million miles away.”

Jordana pushed herself up from her crouch in the front of the drink tubs. “Yes, Rhonda.”

To put it diplomatically, Rhonda was a micromanager, with occasional bursts of outrage she pretended hadn’t happened. That trait made it doubly odd for her to run the quarterly leadership workshops. Rhonda accentuated her matronly appearance by favoring staid business suits and a short hairstyle that added an unnecessary sense of plumpness to her face. She refused to dye the gray out of her hair, saying that as a woman in a man’s world, she wouldn’t use her sex appeal to her advantage. What sex appeal? Jordana hadn’t asked that obvious question in the nine months she’d been Rhonda’s assistant. She circumvented the micromanaging with politeness and ignored the outbursts. She didn’t work in Human Resources for nothing, after all.

“You can look it over and make sure everything is the way you want it.” Jordana had loaded the PowerPoint presentations. All the speaker had to do was a push a button to move through their slides. She tapped a few keys, and Rhonda’s headcount numbers appeared. Staff had grown by 20 percent over the last quarter, and all the new hires were in Manufacturing, which was exactly where they should be. After a long stint of R&D, the company was scheduled to begin shipping product by the first of the year, and they’d received a large influx of cash from a group of venture capitalists in order to make that happen.

Rhonda plodded through every slide, making more changes Jordana knew she’d have to fix before the meeting. “Are you sure about this number?”

“I checked it the first time you asked me, Rhonda.” Jordana forgave the micromanaging, but she still let her boss know she was doing it. Again.

“Oh yes. I forgot.” Rhonda allowed her the reminder. She’d never gone off on Jordana, maybe because Jordana called her on the small managerial infractions.

Rhonda Clark wasn’t the best boss or the best example to follow, but she knew her stuff, and Jordana soaked up knowledge like a sponge. She wanted the VP spot, not Rhonda’s specifically, but something in a fast-growing, dynamic company. That’s why she’d gone for a start-up, because she wanted training in everything to do with the HR field. Since college, she’d worked in two conglomerates, and while the experiences had been good—she’d even worked in Payroll for a while to familiarize herself with that technical area—overall, she’d been slotted into one tiny area of expertise, never getting the big picture. That wasn’t for her. She had too much to catch up on to remain narrowly focused. If she wanted the top job, she had to be proficient in every aspect.

Training aside, with a start-up, there was the added benefit of stock options when the company went public.

While Rhonda went through her presentation, Jordana returned to stacking drinks in the tubs. Even organizing events like this, she considered a skill to be learned. The meeting could totally suck, and she’d been to plenty of yawners like that. There was an art to making sure the assembly listened to every word.

Of course, there wasn’t much she could do about Rhonda’s actual performance.

“Oops,” Rhonda said loudly.

“What did you do?” Jordana didn’t panic. Yet. Rhonda wasn’t the most technically savvy, but she couldn’t do that much damage in five minutes.

“All I did was tap a key and it went away.” Rhonda stared bewildered at what was now a blank screen rather than her document.

“You probably just closed the file.” Jordana had merged all the presentations into one file so that the change in speaker was seamless.

The file, however, wasn’t in the directory. She checked the trash, just in case. She did a search. Nothing.

“Only you, Rhonda. You hit one key, that’s all?”

“I don’t know.” Rhonda made a face. “This pop-up thingie appeared, and I clicked Yes to get rid of it.”

“Hmm.” The file simply wasn’t on the company server. Somehow Rhonda had trashed it, then deleted it out of the trash, too—if that was even possible without knowing you were doing it. Jordana didn’t scream. Everything was backed up on her computer. She had time to fix it. “I’ll run upstairs for a minute.”

“But we have to start in a minute,” Rhonda whined.

Not that Jordana was an eye-roller, but seriously. “The room’s empty, Rhonda. We’ve got time to fix it.”

“But…”

There were a lot of things Jordana didn’t want to learn from Rhonda. Like being a worrier and a nitpicker. “I’ll be back.”

The cafeteria door opened with the first arrivals. The warehouse contingent came for the free drinks. Jordana squeezed past them and headed across the lobby to the stairs, her heels clicking on the tile floor. She pushed upstairs against the flow of accountants coming down.

The building was divided in two, the cafeteria and a testing facility downstairs on either side of the lobby. Upstairs was Marketing, Customer Service, and the CEO’s office on one side, Accounting, HR, and Grady’s office on the other side. The factory, warehouse, and R&D were in the bigger building across the street. She had time. It would take at least five minutes for everyone to arrive and get seated.

After swiping her card key for the outer door, Jordana skirted the outside of the Accounting bullpen. She turned the corner into her cubicle next to Rhonda’s office. Ivy, Grady’s assistant, had already left for the meeting, and Grady’s office was empty, too.

She smiled thinking of the bag of DVDs she’d dump on him after the meeting. Or maybe she should wait until after office hours.

Jordana punched in her password for her screensaver. In a matter of seconds, she had the file copied onto a flash drive. That way, if anything else went wrong during the meeting, she could quickly transfer.

Tucking the flash into the palm of her hand, she glanced at her watch. Almost show time. Rhonda was probably hyperventilating and clutching her chest by now. It wasn’t as if their CEO couldn’t talk off the cuff for a few minutes. Brett Baker didn’t require slides to do his rah-rah bit.

She was moving fast as she rounded the corner, heading for the door to the upstairs landing.

And smashed right into a hard chest.

He grabbed her shoulders to steady her. She knew that chest. Her face buried against it, she knew that scent, too. Manly soap and tall, sexy man.

“We have to stop running into each other like this,” Grady said.

She liked the hint of laughter in his voice. And his hands on her shoulders. And her face in his chest. It was enough to make her forget about the flash drive.

“You’re finally getting it.” She kept her words soft, a little seductive.

He stepped back, and after a beat longer than necessary, dropped his hands. “Getting what?”

“What women want.”

“Really?” His tone was slightly mystified, his head tilted to the left. “How?”

“That was extremely sexy. Putting your hands on me to keep me steady. Talking before you let me go. Drawing out the moment.”

His mouth lifted at one corner. “Was I supposed to let you fall?”

“If I’d bumped into Rhonda, I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t have held me up. And you wouldn’t have done it if you’d crashed into Brett.”

A full-throated laugh burst out of him. “You’ve got me there.”

“So that means you’re learning.”

He regarded her with those delicious hot chocolate eyes of his. “I wouldn’t have done it for Rhonda either.”

“See.” Something tingled low inside her. “You really are catching on.”

His raised brow accentuated a naughty, crooked smile. “But what if you thought I was sexually harassing you?”

She heard the ticking of her internal clock. She even thought she could hear steam venting out of Rhonda’s ears. But she couldn’t move. This was way too much fun. “You knew I wouldn’t. Especially after our conversation last night. Lesson number two, learn when a woman doesn’t want anything from you at all. And steer clear.”

“I’m still not sure how I’ll know.” This close, he seemed bigger, taller. And totally sexy in his white shirt and tie.

“When a woman brings you a big bag of chick flicks, you just know which way it is.”

“You brought me presents.” He grimaced. “Thank you so much. My weekend will be the envy of every red-blooded American male.”

She winked. “I’ll let you slip in a pre-season football game as well.”

“I’m afraid I only watch the Super Bowl.”

Jordana gaped at him. “That’s sacrilege.”

“Even un-American,” he agreed with a straight face and a slight curve of his mouth. “I prefer Indy car races.”

She imagined the thunder of the engines pounding in her chest. It was almost sexual. She felt her body swaying into him.

Jordana’s internal alarm was now shrieking, and everything she’d ignored for the last few minutes came charging back. The meeting. The flash drive with all the presentations. Rhonda’s wrath.

Grady made her forget all her important duties. And that could be very dangerous.

 

Desire Actually is available at all these retailers! If you do read it, I’d love for you to leave a review! Thanks! Kindle  Kindle UK  Kindle CA  Nook  iBooks  IBooks AU  iBooks UK  iBooks CA  Kobo  All Romance  Smashwords

 


Freebies!

Dead to the Max, Max Starr Series, Book 1 is still free!


And that’s not all! Two more freebies, one from Jennifer Skully and one from Jasmine Haynes!

Check out the fabulous new cover for She’s Gotta Be Mine. Thank you for a whole new series look, Rae Monet! Try Book 1 of the Cottonmouth Series for FREE!


Try Somebody’s Lover, the first book in the The Jackson Brothers Trilogy for FREE!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Sexy Office Romance coming your way! Excerpt!



After Office Hours is coming Feb 12, starting with Desire Actually, Book 1! I’m announcing a brand new Jennifer Skully series! As you all know, I love office romance, probably because I worked in an office for over 20 years. I love all that juicy office gossip!
I’ve got the first three covers for you to preview. Thanks to the fabulous Rae Monet!

Up first is Desire Actually. The idea came to me when a friend, Lisa Salvary, casually mentioned that it would be fun to read a book where the man is less experienced than the woman! And poof, the whole story blossomed in my mind. That’s how it works with writers, one little snippet, from a friend, an overhead conversation, something on the news, whatever, and away we go! I loved writing Grady and Jordana’s story. They made me laugh, and they made cry a bit, too. They’re journey was also inspired by a trip I took to Crater Lake and the Lava Beds National Monument. A very pivotal scene came to me as my husband and I were crawling through lava caves. I won’t say anymore, you’ll have to read to find out! But I will tell you how fabulous those caves were, so visit if you ever get a chance. But be sure to take hiking boots, a flashlight, a helmet, long-sleeved shirt, and long pants. Those caves can get a little hairy!
Here’s a blurb about Grady and Jordana’s story in Desire Actually. And I have to thank Lisa Salvary again for the fabulous title! 
What does a red-blooded, All-American male do when his wife asks for a divorce—by email, no less—claiming he's too vanilla in the bedroom?

He gets a sexy tutor for after-office-hours sessions, of course.

Enter Jordana Davis, a work colleague who offers to share the mysterious secrets of what women really want—Desire, Actually. Grady Masterson is more than willing to listen to every seductive suggestion.

He aces sexting and phone sex as the sparks start to fly between them. Then Jordana imagines that Grady could be the one she hadn't been looking for. If only he wasn't taking lessons from her to win back his wife.

How far would you go to win the one you love? 

Desire Actually
After Office Hours, Book 1
© 2016 Jennifer Skully
Chapter One
Grady Masterson stared at the email on his monitor. After eight at night, the office was as silent as a stadium once the fans of a losing team had all gone home. Empty and let down. The quiet gave him time to stare at the email longer than he might have if it had arrived in the middle of the day.
He simply couldn’t understand it.
He was forty-two years old, a college graduate and Vice President of Business Development for a Silicon Valley start-up that had the potential to make billions. He occupied a corner office on the second floor, with a window and a wood desk instead of plastic cubicle furniture. He owned his own home and came from a large San Francisco Bay Area family who’d never been scandalized by divorce in the ranks—of course, two of his brothers hadn’t married yet. He paid his taxes without fudging a single deduction, and he wasn’t stupid. At least he’d never thought so until now, when he simply could not comprehend what the email was telling him.
Dear Grady, she’d written. I’m divorcing you. We’re not compatible anymore. Since we don’t have kids to worry about, it should be a simple matter. I’ll have my lawyer call yours. She’d signed it as Your Wife.
Your wife. As if he was too stupid to recognize the email address. They’d been married fifteen years. Career-oriented, they’d never had children. Right from the beginning, when they were in college, Darlene had told him she wasn’t the mothering type. He didn’t mind, though his mother had never truly come to terms with the fact that she wouldn’t get grandchildren from her first born. He and Darlene had a good marriage. They didn’t fight, not about money, not about sex, not even about religion or politics or in-laws.
Then suddenly, without a single warning shot, they weren’t compatible and she wanted a divorce.
It defied explanation—or even logic. He understood each individual word. He grasped the overall meaning. What he couldn’t fathom was the context, the why.
Swiveling his desk chair, he stared out his window. It wasn’t quite dark yet, the late summer sun still streaking the western horizon with the last of the day’s rays.
He was more angry than hurt, though he was sure the hurt would come later, after he’d processed the whole thing.
Had she been distant lately? Busy at work, sure, since Darlene was an analyst at a brokerage house. She was always distant when the market was down, which it had been for the last few months. Maybe he’d been distant, too, without even realizing it. A start-up created a huge amount of work and stress, but he’d made time for her. He’d factored that in when he accepted the job eighteen months ago. He usually didn’t arrive home until after seven o’clock, or even later. Neither did Darlene. They were happy workaholics. They shared a good meal, usually take-out from one of the nicer restaurants along University Avenue in Palo Alto. They enjoyed a glass of wine together—a new vintage they’d found during a Sunday trip up to Napa in the spring—and tuned into an interesting show on PBS. Or a British mystery. Or… it hadn’t really mattered because they both went through email in front of the TV.
He couldn’t detect the chink in their marriage. They’d seemed comfortable and well-matched. Maybe they were a little routine, but he was satisfied with that.
The email had left him totally, freaking clueless.
And suddenly he was pissed as hell. It wasn’t mere anger. Emotion chewed up his gut like something bad he’d eaten for dinner. It threatened to spew up and out, burning his throat with acid.
He clicked his mouse to force-close his computer. He was done staring at his inbox.
What kind of woman divorces her husband over email? Not the woman he thought he knew, not the woman he’d loved.
Love. The word sent him over the edge, and he grabbed his cell phone off the desk. Jabbing in the pin number to unlock it, he found her name in his favorites and stabbed the icon of her smiling face.
It rang so long he thought she’d let him go to voicemail. Until she said, “Hello.” Politely. As if she hadn’t even looked at the caller ID.
“What the hell is going on, Darlene?” The sharpness of his voice sliced holes in the quiet office.
“Grady.” She paused long enough to communicate her annoyance. “I really don’t think we should discuss it over the phone.”
“Right. So you can divorce me by email, but we’re not allowed to actually talk about it.” His fist was so tight on the phone that his knuckles cracked.
“I knew you’d be like this. That’s why I sent the email.” Because she didn’t want to listen. He’d heard the subtext in her tone.
“You can’t just make up your mind without even talking about it.” He felt his back teeth grinding as he closed his mouth on the words. “Most people would at least try a little counseling. We don’t even have any problems.”
“That’s why we can’t do counseling, Grady. Because you won’t admit the truth. We’ve been off for months. Years, in fact. We’re little more than roommates. But you’re so complacent with the status quo that you don’t even notice.”
Complacent? He rose and began pacing the office because he couldn’t sit still as he listened to her. “Right. We’re roommates who have sex once a week. Like clockwork.”
“That’s what I’m talking about. It’s like clockwork. Routine. Complacent.” Her voice hissed on the word, like a snake slithering into his comfortable, complacent world beneath a rock.
Pulling the phone away from his ear, he stared at her icon a moment. Her snide voice didn’t match the smile. It was like she was some other woman. “So this is all about sex?”
“It’s not all about sex. But I could use a little more variety in the bedroom. It doesn’t always have to be Saturday night. It doesn’t always have to be step one, step two, step three, we’re done. We could be spontaneous. It’s all too vanilla.”
“So now I’m vanilla, too?” Where did she even come up with that word? “All right, fine. I’ll come home and we’ll have sex right now. We’ll do step three, then step two and step one.” He didn’t even know what the steps were. Their love life wasn’t clockwork. He only chose Saturday because on Friday they were both tired from a long workweek and Sunday night they had to get up early the following morning. And he mixed things up. She’d stopped wanting to kiss, jumping right into things, asking him to put his mouth on other parts of her body instead of on her lips. He’d happily obliged. More than happily for both of them.
She gave a long-suffering sigh, like the mother of a teenager who’d told him to clean up his room for the millionth time. “You really don’t get it. When I try to explain what a woman wants, you just don’t listen.”
“I’m listening now. Tell me what a woman wants.”
“It’s too late.” She snapped out each syllable.
He had to be the calm one. They’d never work things out if they were sniping. “We’ve been married for fifteen years. We should at least talk face-to-face before we bring in the lawyers. I’m coming home now.”
“I’m not at home.”
“You’ve already moved out?” This time his teeth ground so hard, he thought he heard one of them chip.
“I’ve got a hotel room.”
It was too freaking weird. “Just like that?”
“I told you’ve I’ve been thinking about it.”
The idiot lightbulb over his head finally flashed on. “There’s someone else, isn’t there?”
“Don’t be ridiculous.” Which translated to: Yes, there is.
“How long has it been going on, Darlene?”
“I told you there isn’t anyone else.” But the softness of a lie had slipped into her tone.
“Tell me.”
“I am telling you.”
“Someone from work?”
“No.”
“A client?”
“Of course not.”
“Then who?”
“I told you there isn’t anyone.”
But he knew her. He might not have paid enough attention over the past few months, he might be complacent, but with his eyes suddenly wide open—actually, it was his ears—he recalled the subtle differences, clothes ever so slightly sexier, the loss of five pounds, a new tint in her hair.
“I assume he’s not vanilla in the bedroom like I supposedly am.” His voice snapped like a rubber band.
“Grady, I’m not—”
He knifed through the lie. “You are. But you should know there’s not going to be a divorce until we talk. Honestly and openly. Call when you’re ready.”
He didn’t hack at the phone. He simply ended the call with a push of his finger. Then he tossed his cell phone on the desk with a thunk.
She was having an affair. He’d claimed he wasn’t a stupid man. But he was. He’d missed all the signs. There’d been nights she hadn’t come home until ten, but he’d had those late nights himself, for business. Over the last few months, the Saturday night intimacy had been at his initiation, and now he wondered if she’d faked her climaxes, too.
He swore, slapped his hand on the back of his chair and rammed it into the desk. Then he grabbed his phone, shoving it into his suit pocket.
They needed to talk. He couldn’t leave this hanging. But he didn’t even know where she was.
He slammed his office door on the way out. It felt damn good. He relished the sensation as he turned, taking two long strides toward the door
And smacked into a wall that shouldn’t have been there. A supple, yielding wall that crumpled to the carpet with a woomph of breath and a soft shriek.

* * * * *

Jordana Davis fell on her butt.
“Sorry. Are you okay?” Grady Masterson stretched out a hand to her. With his executive-short dark hair and sexy five o’clock shadow—make that eight o’clock—the guy was totally hot. She’d always thought so. But he looked especially good from her vantage point down on the carpet. She adored big, tall men, and Grady was at least six-two compared to her five foot seven.
“I’m fine. It was my fault.” She let him pull her up, her fingers engulfed by his warm, oversize hand. It was most definitely her fault. If she hadn’t been eavesdropping on his entire phone conversation, she would have left before he figured out he wasn’t alone.
His cheeks turned ruddy, as if he suddenly realized that she’d probably heard everything, right down to the fact that his wife thought he was vanilla in bed.
A wave of heat blushed her face. He had to be wondering why she was here so late. She jerked a thumb over her shoulder, pointing at her computer. “I was polishing Rhonda’s Power Point presentation.” The excuse was inane. It didn’t explain why she’d kept herself hidden. “For the quarterly company meeting tomorrow,” she added, which didn’t make anything better.
She was executive assistant to the Human Resources VP, whose office was straight across from Grady’s. A cubicle wall separated her desk area from Ivy, Grady’s assistant. They had identical cubicles, each with a short reception desk in front, desk tops all around, hanging file cabinets, and an opening that faced directly at their respective VP’s office. Beyond that was a warren of cubicles housing the Accounting department and a row of offices along the opposite wall while the copy room and conference room flanked the entrance to this upper quadrant of the building.
Grady blinked with eyelashes that were long and dark. “Sorry for startling you when I slammed the door.”
She waved away his apology, giggling like a silly schoolgirl. If she hadn’t jumped up, he probably would have rushed through like a mini tornado without ever seeing her and saving them both from the embarrassment.
But he’d ended the call, and she’d heard him swear. She’d thought she could slip away without being noticed. What an idiot.
So, was it best to acknowledge what she’d heard or pretend she’d been engrossed in Rhonda’s presentation? That might be a lie too hard to swallow.
He shifted feet. “I didn’t hear you out here on your computer.”
She had a very quiet keyboard. “I should have been louder.”
His dark coffee eyes seemed to glow with tiny slashes of green. Instead of dropping his gaze, he looked at her directly. She counted the long, long seconds of silence. “You heard it all, didn’t you.” His voice didn’t rise into a question but remained flat.
It was less embarrassing to simply nod her answer. She’d heard every dirty detail of his side of the conversation. It wasn’t hard to deduce that his wife had sent him a Dear Grady email because he was boring in bed and she was having an affair. Or maybe she was having an affair because he was boring in bed. Or… his wife made her affair his fault by saying he was a bad lover.
His jaw flexed, and he breathed deeply enough to flare his nostrils. She’d never seen Grady Masterson angry. He was big, he was toned—oh yeah, he was toned—but he wasn’t a pushy loudmouth. Tonight was the first time she’d heard him raise his voice, his speech clipped and harsh.
“So tell me,” he said, his gaze intense enough to create a wash of heat deep inside her. “What do women really want?”
She thought about tossing her purse strap over her shoulder and making a run for it. Or throwing him a bone, something like We want equal pay for equal work, or We want to be taken seriously. But that wasn’t what he needed to hear.
He’d asked sincerely. And since she’d blatantly eavesdropped on his very personal conversation—because of course it never occurred to her to leave—he deserved an honest answer.
“A woman wants to be desired.” Her words came out breathy, sexy. She bit her lip. It wasn’t how she’d meant to sound, but there was a change in the atmosphere swirling around them that brought out the huskiness in her voice.
His eyes got darker, the streaks of green receding into the deep cocoa, turning his gaze into something earthy and potent. “How does a man do that?”
“You can’t do it. You have to feel it.”
“But how?” He spread his hands, which she realized had been clenched. “Flowers? Chocolate? Fancy dinners?”
“You have to be desperate. You have to be intense.” She felt his intensity now, like heat shimmering off concrete.
He shook his head, a short, sharp jerk. “What does that mean?”
On a college essay, she’d once gotten the comment that her reasoning needed to be more compelling. What the heck did that mean? Same applied here. What did desperation and intensity mean in concrete terms, especially in regard to the subject matter?
Her breath felt rough in her throat. Then she went for it. “A woman wants to be shoved up against a wall and taken.” She swallowed her embarrassment, concentrated on the heat of his earthy gaze. “Tear her clothes off. Like you can’t wait one more second to get your hands on her. Just pull up her dress and make her scream with pleasure.”
His eyes were all pupil now. She could almost see her reflection in the blackness. “How?” he murmured.
“With your mouth,” she whispered. “It’s all about her, for her. You don’t even get off. You just need to taste her. Right this minute.”
There was a scent on the air, his male musk, hers, mingling, pulling them closer.
His lips moved. “That’s just lust.”
“You can’t have the love if you don’t have the lust first, because then you’re just friends with benefits.” That was her preferred modus operandi. Relationships were too fragile and potentially disastrous. She didn’t have time for disaster.
Grady stepped closer, invading her personal space. His heat arced into her, surrounded her, seduced her.
“And you’ve been desired liked that?” he asked so softly his voice was like a feather stroking her erogenous zones.
The question didn’t merely invade personal space, it assaulted personal everything. She could have told him her answer was theoretical. She could have lied. But in this moment, they were too intimate for lies.
“Yes.” She was a desire junkie. “It was the biggest high in the world.”

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