Cynical divorce attorney Lori Cumberland lives by one motto: Love is grand, but divorce is a hundred grand. With one failed marriage under her own personal belt, Lori had fallen hard and early—and it isn’t something she plans on repeating. She’s content focusing on the temporary marriages of her rich and famous clients. When she joins some of her recent divorcées on a celebratory cruise, her only vow is fun, sun, and new friends. But Lori finds herself tempted by a jury of one.
For Reed Barlow, falling into the world of private investigation was easy. He knows the law and knows how to avoid breaking it—all while doing his job. His rule to live by? No emotion, no involvement…until Lori. His charming smile and cocky attitude distracts Lori and lowers her guard, which is exactly what Reed desires.
But what appears as a one-time-only flirtation may be a plot orchestrated by Reed. As he’s taking his investigation to a dangerous level, it’s Lori who could end up in jeopardy. Reed has only one shot for Lori to grant him a second chance. But if he comes clean with her, he blows his cover. And that just might cost him the opportunity for an alliance of family…and of love.
The movie ended and all but a few stayed behind to enjoy the quiet night outside. The ship glided over the ocean with almost unnoticeable movement, the breeze picking up as the night grew on.
“I say we paraglide tomorrow.”
Lori had curled up on the lounger, Reed kept his arm around her and talked against her ear while they watched the stars.
“Jump off a cliff with a tent over my head?” she teased, but didn’t seem as dead against high adrenaline activities as she had when they first met.
“How about off the back of a boat?”
She seemed to contemplate that image. “Over the water?”
“I don’t think you can do it off a back of a boat that isn’t over water.”
She pushed at his feet with hers. “Smart-ass.”
“C’mon. Push yourself.”
“I can’t tell if you’re manipulating me or bullying me.”
He should have been insulted. “You haven’t said no.”
Her lips pushed together. “I’m thinking about it.”
“I bet Avery would do it.”
“Avery is younger than I am.”
“Oh, you’re so old.” His voice was rich with sarcasm.
“Plastic surgery and fillers. I do live in LA.”
For half a second he found himself searching for telltale scars.
“Now who’s gullible?”
“So I’ll book us in the morning.”
“I should ask the others if they want to join us.”
“Is that a yes?”
“It isn’t a firm no.”
That’s a start. “So you’re in LA.”
“Isn’t everyone?” she asked.
“Feels like it at three in the afternoon on the freeway.”
“I know, the traffic starts earlier and earlier.”
“I’m in Santa Monica,” he told her.
“House or condo?”
“Renting. I haven’t decided if I’m going to stick there.” Which wasn’t completely true. But since his business was run out of a cell phone and a post office box, it was easy to stay mobile.
“I have a condo downtown.”
“No, high-rise. I love it. Close to my office, close to the courts.” She snuggled deeper in his blanket.
“I’d like to see how you live.” While the line was one he’d used in the past to gather information, he said it now with an unwelcome wave of guilt. He pushed it aside.
She hesitated. “Do … do you think this can continue outside of a cruise ship?” she asked, tilting her head up to see his face.
“Honest answer?” he asked.
“I don’t know. I haven’t completely figured out what this is. Have you?”
Lori settled back in the crook of his arms. “Well, we’re both adults.”
“We are that.” He held her closer, as if emphasizing their age.
“Neither of us are married or otherwise attached.”
“It’s safe to say there is some chemistry.” She kept rattling off her list of obstacles they’d already overcome.
“I like the chemistry,” he said against the lobe of her ear.
“We live in the same general area of the world. Which is a coincidence I’d question if I were somewhere other than a cruise ship in the Mediterranean.”
“Maybe it’s fate.” He hoped she hadn’t noticed his hand pause during her last comment.
“I’m not a big believer in fate. In my world, things happen on purpose, not accident.”
It was his turn to twist this around on her. “So you’ve been stalking me and set us up to meet?”
She laughed, as he anticipated.
His gut twisted with a taste of guilt licking the edges of his psyche.
“No, that would be on you,” she said.
“Guilty,” he admitted. “Ever since I saw you at the bar that first day on board, I’ve been stalking you.”
Her amusement leveled into something much deeper. His lines were working, he felt it in how her body relaxed against his, how when she looked up at him, her eyes peered deeper into his.
“To what end?” she slowly asked.
His hand that had been lingering on her arm took a long stroke up until the back of his fingers stroked the edges of one breast.
She shivered under his touch.
“I can think of a couple.”
Lori lifted her chin and turned up toward him. “Only a couple?”
“You know of more?” he teased.
“Maybe.” Her word sounded like sin.
He liked the banter.
Lori sighed and closed her eyes.
He lowered his lips.
“I have a question,” she said before he could kiss her.
“Ask it,” he said.
“Why are we sitting on this deck when we both have perfectly good private rooms?” She opened her eyes, stared at his lips.
“That is a very good question.”
About the Author
New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestselling author Catherine Bybee has written twenty-seven books that have collectively sold more than three million copies and have been translated into twelve languages. Raised in Washington State, Bybee moved to Southern California in hopes of becoming a movie star. After growing bored with waiting tables, she returned to school and became a registered nurse, spending most of her career in urban emergency rooms. She now writes full-time and has penned the Not Quite series, the Weekday Brides series, the Most Likely To series, and the First Wives series.