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Read an excerpt from The Secret by Christie Ridgway

Being butler to a widower and single father is a dream job in more ways than one for Charlotte “Charlie” Emerson. She helps keep businessman Ethan Archer’s household running without a hitch and enjoys every minute she has with his six-year-old son, Wells. But as time passes, the situation feels alarmingly intimate and when her heart starts beating faster each time Ethan steps through the door, Charlie must exert rigid control over her feelings.

With her secret, falling in love would be all kinds of bad…

Ethan Archer values the woman who keeps his life in order and cares so much for his motherless boy. He and Charlie act in harmony with each other and it’s not hard to picture them as a little family…in fact, it’s so easy, one reckless night he proposes a marriage of convenience.

What will he do if Charlie says yes? And worse, what if she tells him no?


Only then did Ethan become aware that someone had entered the adjacent kitchen on silent feet. Charlie, his butler and the caregiver of his son, her sleek hair held back in a ponytail, her slim, tanned legs revealed beneath the hem of a sleeveless shirtdress. It wasn’t too short, but because of her long limbs, her bare skin seemed to go on forever. And always polite, Charlie pretended not to notice that he’d been talking out loud—to an empty room.

“Don’t mind me,” he said. “We old guys mutter to ourselves on occasion.”

Then he winced, vanity instantly wishing he’d not brought up age. Nearing forty sucked.

“You’re not an old guy,” she said mildly, opening the refrigerator and pulling out half a watermelon.

“Older than you,” Ethan said and then winced again. It sounded like fishing.

And true to form, his well-mannered butler took the bait. “Not so much.”

Hah. He had almost a decade on her.

“I’ve dated men your age and more.”

“You have?”

She made a non-committal sound as she began slicing the fruit into cubes.

Ethan cleared his throat, unable to stop his next question. “Are you dating anyone now?”

One glance from her blue eyes had him backtracking.

“Sorry, sorry,” he said. “None of my business.”

But because he’d put the question out there, he couldn’t get it out of his head. Their Charlie, with her unflappable manner and elegant face, dating some old fart. Or worse—a beach dude. Or much, much worse, one of those old beach dudes with a mat of graying chest hair and a belly hanging over his ratty board shorts.

Ethan frowned. Charlie shouldn’t be dating at all.

Then he came alert to his thoughts. Why was he suddenly so interested in Charlie’s social life? It must be the swing of that ponytail as she moved. The roundness of her ass that was merely hinted at beneath the dress. The small, perfect rise of her breasts that he couldn’t help noticing when she was headed to the beach in a swimsuit.

Damn. He shouldn’t be thinking of her ass. Or her breasts. Definitely not about her sweet, bow-shaped lips and what they might taste like.

With a hand to his forehead, Ethan closed his eyes. This was heading south, fast, same as the blood in his veins.

“Are you all right?” Her voice and her cool hand on his arm had him flinching back.


“I didn’t mean to startle you.” She held up a mug of coffee.

He took it and put the heated surface right over the spot where she’d touched him, trying to scald away the memory of it.

Her brows came together over her incredibly blue eyes. They reminded him of some kind of flower—bluebells, he thought. This close, she smelled flowery too, a light, fresh fragrance with an undertone of spice.

Like spring, or maybe summer, while he was impending winter. Okay, maybe just early fall.

Yet still fascinated by her.


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About the Author

Christie Ridgway is a California native and author of fifty contemporary romances. A six-time RITA finalist and USA Today bestselling author, she writes award-winning, emotional reads starring determined heroines and the men who can’t help but love them. Christie grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, went to college in Santa Barbara, and now is married to the sweetheart she met there.

She started off as a technical writer and moved on to computer programming before having two sons and pursuing the dream she’d held since childhood—writing romance novels. Her first book stars a hero who was a former professional surfer and since then she’s written about businessmen, TV stars, soldiers, journalists, vintners, race car drivers, and horror novelists. What her heroes have in common is their resistance to love and their hardest of falls when they finally do find their right woman.

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