Series: Secret Dreams, Book 1
Book Type: Fiction
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publication Date: January 1, 2017
Paige Fogarty never believed Liebe Falls’ golden boy, Sterling Roy, could want a No Good Fogarty, but one magical night, they kissed—ruining her already murky reputation. Fifteen years later, she’s still shunned, now as a professional accountant auditing Roy Furnishings. It’s a daunting task even before she’s forced to work with him.
Sterling made a fool of himself over Paige once. Never again. He only returns to the factory his mother calls his ‘legacy’ to ensure Paige doesn’t pull a fast one. When their chemistry blazes hotter than ever, he wonders if he misjudged her, but secrets come to light, including an embezzler she tries to protect, proving she’s still the wrong girl. So why does holding onto her feel so right?
When they were teenagers, Sterling came by to ask Paige on a date. They wound up kissing in the driveway, in his car. Her father caught them and beat up Sterling. Sterling left town shortly after, leaving Paige with a sketchy reputation. Fifteen years later, they’re stuck working together, trying to ignore the history and leftover sexual attraction. It’s a little worse today since Paige had to ask him for help last night. Her house was broken into and she cut her foot. That’s why she’s on crutches. He just stopped by and asked her to visit his grandmother’s house with him. It’s behind hers and she really doesn’t want him living so close.
“You know, the only reason it’s on my mind every time we’re together is because it’s so obviously on your mind.”
She didn’t know which way to turn, said, “Nothing’s on my mind.”
“Then why are you so jumpy around me?”
Because he was good-looking and funny and he had held her hand last night in a way that made her start believing in fairy tales. “I just don’t want people to think things.”
He snorted. “You can’t control what people think. Who cares what they think?”
“So says the man who has never had anyone think badly of him.”
“I don’t know. Half the time you seem to think I’m something that needs hosing off the bottom of your shoe.”
“I don’t think badly of you. You’re perfect, which is annoying, but—” Shut up, Paige. She leaned on the crutches, looked toward the door, glanced back to see if he was angry and saw he was suppressing a smile.
“Question is,” he murmured, “do you also think about that night?”
Her breath stopped in her throat, until she finally forced out, “Since I’m not anxious to relive my most humiliating rejection, no. I never think about it.”
In the silence that followed, she heard her own heartbeat pulsing in her ears. Okay, really. It was time to go. She moved the end of one crutch.
“Are we talking about what happened in my car before your dad grabbed me—”
“I’m not talking about anything,” she insisted. “It was horrible.”
“It was not.” After a beat, he said, “Did you really think it was awful, Paige?” He sounded concerned. Shocked. “I thought it was...” She heard him swallow and he was very careful as he said, “Consensual.”
Oh God. Why did every conversation with this man have to peel away every single layer of defenses she had?
“It was,” she mumbled, ducking her head so her hair would cover her hot cheeks, embarrassed by remembered passion. Need. One kiss was all it was supposed to be, a light thank you for asking her on a date. The next minute their clothing had been askew and she’d been trying to crawl inside his skin. He’d felt so good!
Her body was burning. She wanted to leave, but was pinned by mortification.
“I liked you, Sterling. And when you kissed me, I thought it meant you liked me back.” She sounded adolescent all over again. “But when you realized your good time was happening with a Fogarty, you got mad at me and acted like—”
“I wasn’t mad.” He had his hands in his pockets and slouched against the wall, his face still in shadow while she felt spotlighted by the light from the window and open door. A breeze through that door would be nice. “Not until after, when I thought you’d set me up. When I stopped, I was frustrated. Looks like anger, but it’s different.”
She thought back to a skinnier, big-handed, intense Sterling pushing her away, saying, What the hell? as if she’d been doing it all wrong. We’re not having sex. Like the thought of it revolted him.
The black and white tiles had gold sparkles in them. She’d never noticed that before.
“I was hard as an uncut diamond, Paige. You can’t seriously think I wasn’t into you.”
She remembered the hard as a diamond part, but from talk among her brother’s friends, she’d been under the impression guys were pretty much permanently in that state so she hadn’t taken credit for Sterling’s arousal.
She shrugged, forcing herself to lift her face and look at him even though it made her feel very vulnerable. “You always acted like you didn’t even know I existed.”
“So did you.”
And then they had finally spoken to each other, looked right at each other from across the width of a car and promptly collided like a pair of fusion atoms.
They were kind of looking at each other the same way now— Whew. Could they get some air in here? Please?
“I, um, didn’t know how to handle attention from boys,” she explained. Still didn’t. “So I just pretended they weren’t there.” It wasn’t working today.
His mouth twitched, the indent at one corner of his mouth deepening. Not laughing at her, laughing at the two of them. Dumb kids.
She still didn’t get it, though. “Why did you push me away and say you didn’t want to have sex then?”
“Because we were in the driveway?”
“Oh. Right.” She dried her damp palms on her hips, fumbled to keep hold of her crutches, felt too aware of her unpolished appearance and the fact that her Fogarty-ness hadn’t turned him off back then. She wondered what he thought of her now.
Oh, don’t be such a girl.
He stood unmoving, all of his attention focused on her in a way that made the bottom of her stomach drop away.
Oh, dear. She needed some distance, stat.
“So you thought Lyle and I set you up? Because—”
“Your brother’s a prick. If I think about it, I want to kick his ass, so let’s never speak of him again. And be serious. All this time you’ve thought I drove to your house, asked you out, made the first move, then rejected you?”
She shrugged. “You wouldn’t talk to me. Everything after was so awful I tried to forget the whole thing. Didn’t you?”
“No.” His tone scoffed at her for the notion. “Not all of it.”
“What do you mean?”
“In my version we finish,” he said with the kind of shrug men gave when they were acting like men. “So I think about it. Sometimes.”
He had a version. She didn’t know they were allowed to have versions. And he thought about it when he... Oh dear God.
“You’re thinking about it now, aren’t you?” he accused, an intimate teasing entering his voice. “Revising as we speak.”
“I am not!” She was. Her palms were hot and slippery on the handles of her crutches. If she took out the part where he pushed her away and remembered the part where his hand shook when he touched her breast....
Her foot protested and she realized she had her feet mashed together, that she was pressing her thighs together. Oh, God.
He made a subtle adjustment against the front of his jeans.
Could this house get any more stifling? She had a feeling he was watching her mouth. He did that a lot. Last night, at the hospital, he’d seemed fixated on it. It made her self-conscious. She licked her lips, then pressed them together because she was making it worse.
“I’m leaving,” she told him. “And we’re adding this conversation to the list of things we never mention again.” She arranged the crutches so she pointed toward the door.
“If we don’t talk about it, how will we trade notes on our edits?”
She would have to drop a crutch to show him her middle finger, so she refrained, getting away from his laughter as fast as her hobbled gait could carry her.
About the Author
USA Today Bestseller Dani Collins is the author of thirty romances for Harlequin Presents, Montana Born and herself. Dani lives in Canada with her high school sweetheart. Join Dani's newsletter and receive Cruel Summer, a short ebook romance, as a welcome gift: http://danicollins.com/free-book/
Date: January 16 - 30, 2017
1 Winner: $10 Amazon Gift Card + FREE eBook of Only In His Sweetest Dreams (Secret Dreams, Book 2)