Category Archives: When Lightning Strikes
Oh hey there. Hi. Remember me? The lady who used to update her blog regularly. Miss me? Yeah, me too. The feeling is most definitely mutual. But good news! I’m back and I have a new book! Summer Heat is out Monday, April 10th! It is book 5 in The Storm Inside series and it brings us the second chance love story of June Daniels, Eve’s youngest sister. And since I abandoned you for so long, I’ve included the entire first chapter for you to check out! And check out this cover designed by Romanced by the Cover! Holy hotness! Happy reading!
Can baseball’s bitterest feud become its greatest love story?
A long time ago I fell in love with the wrong man. Wrong because there was no chance we could ever be together. Roman St. James was off limits. Forbidden. The enemy.
Except the Daniels-St. James feud isn’t my feud and it most certainly isn’t Roman’s. He’s nothing like his father. And while the rivalry between our families is one of the most famous in all of baseball, I couldn’t help myself. One smile turned into one date, and one date turned into so much more.
Of course it was a disaster. And now, five years later, I can still barely bring myself to think about what could have been.
Until one night in a locker room changes everything…
I pushed the heavy metal door open and stepped into the visiting team’s locker room at Tropicana Stadium.
“Hello? Did someone call for a trainer?” It was unusual, to say the least, to get a call asking for medical help for the opposing team, but then again, this wasn’t a game day and no one should be in either locker room. Visions of horror movies filled my head as I tentatively stepped further inside.
“In here,” a familiar voice called. A very familiar voice. Too familiar.
No . . . he couldn’t possibly—
I stopped short at the sight of Roman St. James standing beside his best friend Wes Allen. Wes was laid out on a bench with his foot propped up and he was very clearly in pain. I averted my eyes before Roman looked up because no. Just no. There was absolutely no way I could look that man in the eyes.
“What have we here?” I asked, dropping my bag on the ground and immediately looking over the hurt foot.
“I think I sprained it?” Wes’s voice rose an octave in question.
“I want to be sure it’s only a sprain before he moves,” Roman explained. “I know this isn’t exactly normal but I didn’t know who else to call on such short notice.”
Had Roman asked for me specifically? Was that why I’d been sent instead of someone else when the call came in?
“Of course,” I murmured, running my finger over the swollen flesh.
“That is, if it’s legal? I’m sure it’s not insurable and it is most definitely not kosher to look over someone from another team.”
I snorted at Roman’s logic. “I’m almost positive this isn’t illegal. We’re not at war, just on different teams.” Except Roman and I were very much at war, just not over this. Enemy combatants in a fight neither of us chose.
He rocked back on his heels and from the corner of my eye I could see that he was wearing a grey suit. He looked wonderful, actually, not that I noticed. Nope. I didn’t notice the way his shoulders filled out the jacket or how his stubble was perfectly trimmed to look sexy and rough at the same time. I definitely didn’t notice the way the air crackled between us.
Not one little bit.
Denial was the only way I was getting through this.
“Still, it’s very generous of the Rays to lend us your talents,” Roman murmured.
Wes gave him a funny look. “You’re acting weird.”
Roman shrugged. “Whatever. Is it broken?”
I shook my head. “Definitely not broken.”
They both sighed with relief.
Yes, it would most definitely be a problem to have the Jacksonville Waves star catcher out with a broken ankle. But why was the Waves catcher in the Tampa Bay Rays locker room?
My locker room.
“Thank God,” Wes mumbled, lying back on the bench. He was in uniform but not dirty. “I’m an idiot. You’re supposed to stop me from doing idiotic things, Roman.”
“What did you do?” I chuckled as I pulled out an emergency cold pack and a wrap.
Roman grinned and cocked his thumb over at Wes. “Knucklehead here is a romantic. He was making a video for his girlfriend when he tripped over second base.”
“Oh, the dirty jokes I could make about that one,” I giggled as I pressed the cold pack to his ankle.
Wes groaned. At six-foot-three he was a tall and truly talented catcher for the Waves. Catchers tended to be shorter but Wes made it work. I’d watched his transformation first hand in college, putting all the naysayers to shame. I was in no way surprised that he’d not only made it to the majors, but was quickly becoming the most famous catcher in the game.
“Please don’t, I feel dumb enough as it is . . . ”
“How long have you been together?” I’d almost stopped noticing exactly how close Roman was standing beside me.
“That’s the really ridiculous part,” Roman scoffed. “Two weeks.”
Wes covered his face. “Stop making fun of me! I love, love. What’s so wrong with that?”
My heart kicked up a little bit because there was nothing wrong with a massive dirty blond ballplayer who also happened to be terribly romantic.
Roman groaned. “The problem is that you fall in love with everyone, Wes. You might want to reserve grand gestures that get your ass on the disabled list for the one.”
“She’s out there,” he grumbled.
“How do you know it isn’t this one?” I asked. I’d moved on to wrapping the ankle and ignoring the heat my body suddenly seemed to be generating simply by being in the same room with a man I desperately wanted but could never, ever have.
“Because ‘Annie’s’ gonna dump his ass the minute she sees the ankle,” Roman said.
I frowned at Roman’s subtle reference to baseball groupies. “She’s a cleat chaser?”
They both nodded. I was not a fan of the baseball groupies, or “Annies”, as our fathers called them—women who bounced from player to player for fame and financial reasons—but it was a relationship that worked for the individuals involved. The players got beautiful arm candy that stroked their egos while the women got the favors of fame. I didn’t want to know what technically happened between the sheets, but I could imagine it was more mechanical and less romantic. I didn’t begrudge anyone who chose that life if that was what they wanted. But it wasn’t me. I wanted fireworks. I wanted devotion, loyalty, and passion the likes of which I’d only seen in a few very special couples. Anything less was unacceptable.
And I’d thought I’d had it once. For six glorious weeks Roman St. James had been my world. He was fire and excitement and he had eyes only for me . . . until reality set it.
I swallowed down the lump in my throat. “You’re tall and you have weak ankles Wes, you always have. You need to be more careful.”
The room went silent and when I looked up Wes was staring at me. “How do you know I have weak ankles?”
Shit. I froze, realizing my colossal mistake. “Uh . . . ”
“Do you not know who this is?” Roman stepped in. My heart took off in a panic. What was he going to say? He wasn’t going to tell Wes, was he? “This is June Daniels.”
I held his gaze and watched as Wes tried to place me. “Papa Joe Daniels daughter?”
I nodded, hoping that the knowledge I grew up in the game was enough to satisfy Wes’s curiosity. “And,” I added, “I know ballplayers.” My father had been a famous third baseman for the Twins. I was raised in the world of baseball, just as Roman was. It was, quite literally, in my blood and the reason I’d chosen a career as an athletic trainer. It perfectly blended my two favorite things: medicine and baseball.
Wes arched a skeptical eyebrow. “You’re telling me Roman St. James intentionally called the daughter of his father’s mortal enemy to fix me up? What the hell is going on here?”
I finished wrapping the ankle and stuffed my gear back into my bag like it was on fire. I needed out of there fast.
Roman shifted back and forth on his feet. “We all went to college together, Wes. She was one of our trainers at The University of Florida.”
I sighed heavily and for the first time, locked eyes with the man I had avoided for five long years. Roman was the most beautiful man I’d ever seen and nothing had changed in that department. His skin was permanently tan from years on the field and his eyes . . . oh his eyes. They were what did me in. He had these deep brown eyes that had a way of showing everything he was feeling. They could see inside me and strip me bare.
But that wasn’t why I’d fallen for him. I’d watched Roman for a long time before anything happened and yeah, his eyes were expressive, but the only time they ever looked like that was when he was looking at me. Believe me, I’d studied that look for months after we parted ways, hoping to see him turn that gaze on another woman so I could officially hate him with every fiber of my being. But he didn’t. Not once.
Not until now.
I felt the world fall away as he searched my eyes with the softest expression. I saw regret and hope mixed together in an older and far more mature version of the man I’d once loved.
He’d been a brilliant third baseman and had a body that went with it. Six-foot-one with a strong right arm that could throw bullets across the infield with laser precision. He would have been great. Maybe one of the greatest.
“I don’t remember you and I’m pretty sure I’d remember a Daniels,” Wes said, but I barely heard him. I was trapped in Roman’s gaze. Frozen where I stood. How was it possible to feel just as strongly all these years later? It was as if no time had passed. We were still twenty-one and spending the longest, sexiest weekend of our lives alone together in a hotel room. His look turned me on every single time. How could it not? When he looked at me I was the only woman who existed. I could see and feel his need for me in that gaze.
And when he touched me? Oh yes. When his hands grazed across my skin it was fire and electricity, but deeper than that. His touch always sank inside until all I could feel was him.
I cleared my throat, trying to find my voice. “I kept away from Roman and his friends. It was best for everyone,” I finally murmured. “I should go.”
Panic flared in Roman’s eyes.
I ignored it and reached for my bag. I caught Wes’s wide eyes as I stood up. He glanced back and forth between us, jaw slack, putting together pieces he really should leave apart.
“Oh. My. God,” he finally whispered. “It’s her! She’s the one.”
My heart stopped beating. The one. As much as I wanted it to be true, I’d never allowed myself to believe Roman felt as strongly toward me as I’d felt toward him. He couldn’t. Not if he’d let me walk away.
“I should go,” I repeated and bolted for the door. Behind me I heard Wes’s voice rise up to almost a shout.
“June Daniels was the secret woman that had you so fucked up? I can’t even wrap my brain around this.”
There was silence just before I heard a growl. And then as the locker room door swung shut, “Never speak about her that way ever again.”
The venom in his voice…it was intense. For me? Or for the secret we shared? If his father ever found out we’d had a relationship—
“June, wait!” Roman called out, his voice echoing off the white cinderblock walls.
I rushed forward hoping he wouldn’t see me as I rounded the corner. If I could just get back to my office I’d be safe. What could he possibly say in front of my coworkers?
But then a strong hand wrapped around my bicep and gently pulled me to a stop. “Please, June. Just let me explain.”
The warmth of his palm seared into my skin like a brand. It took my breath away. “Explain what?” I sneered, sounding much angrier than I intended. I didn’t want him to hear just how much he was affecting me, whether it was positive or negative.
I screwed my eyes shut and silently counted to ten. “Everything? Like, why you’re here at my place of work in a suit, or something a bit older, like why you never apologized after our last conversation?”
His dark eyes locked onto mine. “Everything,” he repeated again, this time as a whisper. Then he seemed to remember himself and cleared his throat. “I’m here right now because we’re in negotiations for a trade to the Rays. Wes cannot afford to get hurt.”
I studied Roman—this time with intention. The suit looked good on him, so did the way his jaw ticked with frustration. Why did he have to look so appealing even when I wanted to hate him?
And then it hit me. “You’re an agent now?”
He nodded. “I am. I’m Wes’s agent. When I called Marie looking for a suggestion on who to take Wes to she suggested you.” He shrugged. “How could I say no to that?”
My jaw fell open as more pieces fell together. “Wait . . . you work for Marie?” Marie Hamilton was a very close friend of the family and one of my oldest sister’s best friends. She was CEO of Bancroft Sports, her family’s company, and, apparently, Roman’s boss?
“Since when?” Did Eve know about this? Or had Marie kept it a secret from all of us? Why would she ever hire a St. James when her best friends were all Daniels? It didn’t make a lick of sense.
“Six months. Marie just brought me down, partially to work this deal for Wes.” He kept searching my face, looking for some clue as to my reaction, no doubt.
And at this point I was so shocked that I had no idea what kind of expression I had on my face or what he was able to read in my responses. What I did know was that I needed to escape. An overwhelming need to flee had taken over my entire body.
“If Wes takes it easy he should be good as new next week.” I turned to leave, but he stopped me again, and damn it all, I loved the feeling of his large hand on my arm. It was familiar and unleashed a longing deep inside my chest.
“Wait.” He yanked his hand away as if he’d been burned, then ran it through his dark hair. “Thank you for this.”
I nodded, not trusting myself to look into his eyes again. “Of course. This is what I do.”
“And I hear you do it very, very well.” There was deep admiration in his voice that made my pride swell in ways that it really shouldn’t.
“Marie is biased. She thinks of me as a sister.”
“That’s not where I heard about you.”
For some reason, that admission took my breath away. “Are you checking into me?”
He didn’t say anything. Instead he slid both his hands onto my arms and turned me to face him. And I let him, mostly because I seemed to have lost all feeling in my limbs or ability to string together thoughts that didn’t involve the way my pulse pounded in my veins or the way the air around us seemed to be alive.
I didn’t dare look up into his eyes again. I knew if I did I wouldn’t be able to look away, so instead I stared at his throat where his collar and tie pushed up against his Adam’s apple.
And that didn’t help at all, because all it did was remind me how much I loved the way his body moved—always so fluidly together—from his eyes to his jaw, all the way down his strong shoulders to his trim waist, and over his muscular thighs.
I sucked in a little breath and held it.
Did he feel this? Was his body humming with need and recognition like mine? Was his mind spinning faster than he could form thoughts?
“June,” he whispered, and I knew right then by the strangled way it came out that he was absolutely as affected as I was. “Please look at me.” His fingers tightened on my arms. “I’ve never stopped thinking about you.”
I looked up and the need in his eyes slammed into me like a wave. “Five years.” I tossed out the time it had been since we’d last spoken like a shield.
“I’m sorry. I’ve owed you those two words for so long.”
And I’d waited to hear them, but it wasn’t enough. It felt . . . incomplete. “You’re sorry?”
“Yes. I’m sorry. I’m sorry for the things I said but I’m even sorrier that I was so fucking stupid.”
“You weren’t stupid,” I bit out. An uncontrollable anger roared back to the surface. I’d fantasized a million different ways to make him hurt the way he’d hurt me. He’d gotten that satisfaction—seeing the pain in my eyes—right before I walked away. I hoped leaving him had hurt him but I didn’t know for sure and I certainly never got to see it. “You were weak.”
He flinched, and for a moment the satisfaction was everything I needed . . . until it wasn’t. He blinked several times and took a careful breath. “Well, that is something very different.”
I’d hurt him, just like I wanted, and instead of feeling relief or triumph or even closure, all I felt was wrong.
He cleared his throat and let his hands drop away from me. “I was stupid but you’re right, I was also weak.” He struggled to get that last word out. “I was stupid to waste the best thing that ever happened to me. I was even stupider for just standing there when you left. But you’re right, I was also weak.”
The two inches that separated us felt more like a mile of open black space that I was about to tip forward into and free fall to my own death. I knew Roman was a bad idea from the moment I felt the first pull of lust, but I’d ignored it. What was wrong with a little mental fantasizing about a hot ballplayer? But then we’d gotten stuck together in a dugout during a rainstorm. Alone. While he was on one of the most painful phone calls I’d ever had to listen to.
George St. James, Roman’s father, was an asshole. Girls have stage moms: the intense ladies who make their daughters act and enter beauty pageants to fulfill some sort of lost fantasy of their childhood, but boys had something similar: sports dads. And a sports dad who happened to be a Hall of Famer and had a superiority complex? George was the worst. He’d pushed Roman so hard and on that particular day I’d seen a young man defeated.
But then he’d put the phone away and steeled himself. And a minute later he’d asked me about my classes with genuine interest. No hate. No vendetta. Just genuine interest. He didn’t care about the feud any more than I did.
I started to fall for him right then and there. It wasn’t immediate. Ours was more of a long, slow, pleasurable slide into oblivion. But, as it turned out, the end wasn’t a soft landing. It was a painful kick in the ass.
“I should get back to work,” I murmured, reaching behind me for the wall.
“Can I buy you coffee?” He blurted it out so loud it echoed off the walls.
I let out a frustrated sigh. “Why? Why would I do that, Roman?”
“Because we’re more than a failed affair.”
That was putting it mildly. “Whatever we were doesn’t matter anymore.”
“Yes it does.”
I didn’t understand why he was being so stubborn. Now. In the bowels of Tropicana Stadium. He could have written me an email or found me anytime in the last five years to apologize, but he didn’t.
“Why, Roman? Why now after all this time?”
“Have coffee with me and I’ll explain.”
“Explain now and then we can talk about coffee.”
He groaned and ran his hand over his face. “This isn’t going the way I hoped.”
“And what way is that?” Had he expected me to be pliant? To fall into his arms and let him kiss me?
“Well for one I didn’t think I’d spend more time concentrating on keeping my distance than actually saying what I need to say.” He threw his hands onto his hips and glared at me.
“I don’t understand what that means. Keeping your distance?”
“It means,” he growled, “that you keep licking your lips and breathing heavy and looking at me with those big fucking blue eyes that you know make me forget everything, and all I want to do is kiss you so hard you forget the last six years. Forget everything that happened between us before so I could meet you right now, for the first time.”
Oh. Well then . . .
He stepped into me before I could form a reply and ran a hand along my cheek. I closed my eyes and leaned into his touch before I could stop myself—it was instinct when it came to Roman.
“June . . . ” he whispered. His words reached inside me to places I’d closed off long, long ago. I couldn’t breathe. How was this possible? I’d had many fantasies about Roman over the years, but never this. Not even close.
“What about the feud?” I whispered. Even if I was open to the idea of a relationship with the man who had completely broken my heart, it didn’t change the fact that our families hated each other.
“Fuck the feud. It’s not our fight.”
But it was. Family loyalty meant a lot to me. He knew that. “I can’t do that.”
Pain flickered in the dark brown of his eyes. “Then I’ll just have to prove it to you. The feud is in the past and you will fall back in love with me. There is no other woman on this earth for me and I know there is no other man for you.”
I hated that he was right almost as much as I loved hearing how he felt about me.
I took his hands and gingerly removed them from my body. Each movement hurt on a deep molecular level. I wanted Roman. I wanted him desperately. But I couldn’t have him. Not with the feud and not with what had happened between us. Attraction was wonderful and maybe there’d been a shot at love for us once upon a time, but those days were long gone. The reality was that we could never be together. Not in any healthy, sane way.
He looked absolutely tortured by the way I pushed him back, but I knew it was what I had to do. “Goodbye, Roman.” I turned and walked away, my footsteps echoing with each step I took like some sort of doomsday clock.
“You’ve got that wrong, June,” he called. When I looked back he was standing exactly where I’d left him, his head down and his hands thrust into his pockets. “This isn’t goodbye. This was hello.”
I shook my head. “What does that even mean?”
He looked up, a huge grin on his handsome face and a gorgeous light in his eyes. “It means this was the beginning of something brand new.”
It’s time Storm Insiders! Never Let Go is here!
The final installment in Jake & Eve’s love story is now available to read on the ereader of your choice or in paperback!
Love isn’t easy. If there is one thing I’ve learned, that’s it. Love doesn’t last because it’s perfect or fate, it’s because two people decided to fight for it. They hold on tighter than anyone else when times get tough. And right now, times are really tough.
It’s a good thing I have a strong grip.
We’ve been sucked into a world filled with politics and appearances. It’s triggered silent demons that Jake thought he’d beaten long ago, and running from them isn’t an option this time. We’re in this together. We’ve already lost a decade, I’m not losing another minute.
I like to think we all have a healthy fear of failure, but I know some of us have a bigger fear than others. Mine is kind of huge and it prevented me from doing a lot of different things with my life. Over the last month I’ve had to force myself to look that fear in the face and do what I’ve been dreading…read The Storm Inside.
I haven’t read it since I wrote it. It was my first book. It was three years ago. And I haven’t cracked that baby open and looked at it with two since I hit publish. Excellent sales, wonderful reviews, and heartfelt fan letters could not convince me that the words I put down in that book were anything but embarrassing (and no, I’m not talking about the smokin’ hot sex scenes.)
I was paralyzed, so I ignored it. I didn’t market the book the way I should have and as a result I’ve stunted my potential as a working writer. Over the holidays I had to take a long hard look at who I wanted to be. You can either be a successful writer who is proud of your entire body of work, blemishes and all, or you can hide in the shadows of “one day.”
So I’ve done it. I’ve re-read the entire book (sometimes peeking through my fingers because WHAT THE HELL DID I WRITE? Someone start a cold shower, those sex scenes…Jake’s story…their love??? Holy hell, what a book!)
I’ve given the whole series new covers and blurbs, and stepped outside of my own fears of failure because no one finds joy in hiding. Meanwhile I’ve been reading a half-dozen “first novels” from authors I consider my contemporaries and I learned a few things.
- It’s enjoyable to watch the transformation of a writer through their books. I don’t look down on those wonderful stories of love and triumph because of the typos or head hopping (it was only once.) I smiled because in the next book and the next book the writer grew stronger and my love of the author grew right along with it. I know I have readers who feel the same way. I love you guys.
- Most people don’t notice the stray typo so I really, really, really need to stop acting like HRH Queen Gatekeeper of Novels is going to cast me out into the barrens of Never Writing Again and Laughed At in Infiniti. No really, every book has typos, even the #1 NYT Bestsellers. Some people read books and get their panties in a bunch over every little nuance, but most people just want a fucking good story. Write a good story. Hire good people. Do better when you know better. Keep moving forward.
- I don’t take my own advice. I give pretty good advice, but I let my fear stop me from putting it in motion for myself. It’s been a good lesson to see several of these authors take my advice and succeed. It was a good smack in the face to realize if I’d done the same thing I wouldn’t have been cast out into the Barrens and might actually be pretty darn happy.
- I’m good at what I do (and I don’t need anyone to tell me that.) I used to admire those people who could throw themselves onto the fire without thinking. How did they write a book, put it out there, tell everyone it was the best thing since sliced bread… and have people believe it? Sure, some of those books were awesome, but most of them? Average. Totally and completely average. But the author had brash confidence and took the audience along with her. It’s taken a bolt of lightning and seeing my writing critiqued for me to realize that no one needs to give me permission to say my stories are good. No one but me is in charge of being proud of my work. My success is entirely up to me. I’m write damn good stories.
- “Fear is the Enemy” is not just a saying people throw around. Fear is the wall that stands between failure and success. Which side do you want to stand on? Do you want to live in the shadow of fear, or do you want to put that behind you and stand in the sun? (I live in Florida, I can tell you the sun is very enjoyable.)
Putting The Storm Inside out all over again has already transformed my life. It has sat in the iBooks Top 5 in UK for the last week and Reflected and Lightning have jumped up the paid charts…reminding me that the only one holding my books back is me. It was terrifying to re-read my book, but it’s turned into a lovely experience to re-edit the books. The new paperback proof is on the way to my mailbox right now. I’ll be sure to share the pictures with you all when it gets here!
The Storm Inside series got a facelift! That’s right, new covers, new blurbs, and a fresh new start to Spring! Plus, I finally got my wish: flowing red fabric on The Storm Inside cover. I loved the old one, but I always saw it in my head with a flowing red dress. I have no clue why, I just did. This new cover is a nice compromise!
Still to come: new paperbacks! Not only will they be getting covers to match, but The Storm Inside (more than the rest) will be getting a formatting facelift inside. It was my first book and I’ve learned a lot about making paperbacks pretty. I can’t wait to finish them up!
Plus, a box set of all three books will start trickling out to retailers soon. If you know anyone who hasn’t read the series yet, the box set is a great time to start reading because the fourth book in the series will be out soon! Stay tuned for more details on NEVER LET GO. This will be the third Jake and Eve book.
Click on the BOOKS tab above for more information on each of the books and to look at the new blurbs! And be sure to sign-up for my newsletter to get info on all my new releases!
Hello everybody! Welcome to this stop on the Valentine’s Rewind Blog Hop! I’m Alexis, your host for this stop. I write steamy, emotional, knock-your-socks off erotic romances and today I’m bringing back TWO couples for one very important reason. My two series were born out of the same (unpublished) book. Part of that story went into creating Jake and Eve from The Storm Inside. The rest of that book is Adam and Elizabeth’s story in Tease. Today I’m uniting the families (this feels very gangster mob…should I have a gun for this??) and explaining how they are (still) connected. This might also be a lead-in to a new book.
I hope you enjoy it!
Goodwood (Adam & Elizabeth…with a little Theo & Allison)
I was one of those people.
You know the ones, they say money can’t buy happiness. I walked around honestly believing that money and happiness were, at their core, unrelated.
But the truth? The truth was money could buy a whole lotta happiness. Case in point: money had purchased Elizabeth a slot at the Goodwood Revival in West Sussex. And the look on her face as she gunned Theo’s Mercedes 300SL down the winding track was nothing short of pure joy.
“I had no idea she was so proficient behind the wheel,” Theo murmured, his hand tucked inside Allison’s as they stood beside me watching Elizabeth’s run.
I chuckled as Allison threw me a shrug. She and I both knew all too well that Elizabeth was a pretty amazing driver. Allison’s face mirrored mine. We wore giant smiles as we watched. Theo on the other hand? He had some pretty wide eyes and a slack jaw.
“She could’ve been a driver if she’d wanted to. Lucky for her, she’s got me.” In the last year I’d managed to get her track time in my AMG, and a run in one of my team’s cars. Working for a Formula 1 racing team had come with far more perks than I’d originally dreamed. I occasionally kicked myself for waiting so long, but then again, if I had taken the job in Brackley working as a design engineer for Mercedes AMG, I might not have met Elizabeth. At least not when we did.
“Lucky indeed,” Allison murmured, giving me a much longer look than she had before. This one, if I wasn’t mistaken, was meant to be a statement on the current state of my relationship with her best friend.
We lived together and there was no one else on the planet for me…but Elizabeth wasn’t the kind of girl who wanted a ring, to change her name, or have a big wedding. She liked things the way they were. And because of how far she’d already come, I wasn’t going to be the one to push the idea of making our relationship more permanent. Most mornings I woke up thanking my lucky stars the drop-dead gorgeous woman who could drive a stick and command a classroom full of brilliant college students was still in bed beside me. I was a lucky fucking bastard and I knew it.
Asking her to marry me would push her over the edge. I wanted to love her, not hurt her. But Allison didn’t agree. Of course, she was also the one who’d been pushing Elizabeth since they became college roommates. She was a lot more comfortable with the boundaries Elizabeth could handle.
The crowd erupted in cheers as the cars on the track crossed the finish line. I watched with a ridiculous amount of pride coursing through my veins as Elizabeth navigated the car into the line headed off the track, wondering if Allison was right. Maybe it was time to test the waters.
“Could you grab us another round, and we’ll meet you down there?” Theo murmured in Allison’s ear.
She nodded and smiled. “See you there. It’s time to celebrate.”
We strolled across the grounds, making our way between exceptionally well-dressed groups. The fun thing about Revival was that it was a period festival. You didn’t have to dress up, but most did. Theo was in one of his throwback three-piece gangster suits. Allison was dressed to match in one of her champagne-colored gowns, and I was in one of my standard suits. After Elizabeth had the car squared away she’d be slipping back into her bright red dress as well.
Between the clothes and antique racecars, the music, and the food, I felt like I’d stepped back in time. Maybe it was time to act like we were in someone else’s life.
Theo cleared his throat. “Thank you for arranging all this, Adam. It’s more than perfect.”
I reached into my jacket pocket and pulled out the red velvet box. “It’s been my pleasure. I don’t think you could have picked a more appropriate time or place for this.”
He grunted and came the closest Theo ever came to smiling when Allison wasn’t around. “If her parents have their way, we’ll be here in this exact same spot one year from now for the wedding. Her mother is losing her mind. The minute she saw the pictures of Revival she started seeing the perfect wedding in her head.” He shrugged. “It gives her a year to plan the wedding to end all weddings, and I think Allison will be okay with it since she’ll get to have a period wedding.”
He tucked the box into his pants pocket and straightened his suit. I had to give it to the man, he had a style all his own and he made it work.
“How did you know?” I asked.
He cocked an eyebrow. “Please, please tell me you aren’t pulling this shit. You’re supposed to be my mature friend.”
I just barely managed to hold in a snort. “Ummm…what?”
“My mature friend.” He waved his hand through the air as we wedged between a particularly enthusiastic group dressed in WWII uniforms. “Higgins is clearly the guy who gets me in trouble, and James is my girly guy. You, my friend, are supposed to keep my ass out of trouble while being wise and practical about women. James has the over emotional crap all under control. Please tell me you aren’t switching sides on me. I don’t think I can handle being married without a mature friend.”
“Okay…” I drawled as I tried to figure out what Theo was talking about. “You’re saying I’m the guy you call when Allison’s been standing in the closet for an hour saying she has nothing to wear even though she has an entire closet full of clothes?” Girls were often very confusing.
“Yes!” he exclaimed. “Exactly. I love that woman with everything I have, but sometimes I don’t get her at all. I need someone to call and say ‘what the ever living fuck’ to so I don’t say it to her. Higgins will never get that. James will just call Allison and tell her what I said.”
“So it’s up to me.” I clapped him on the shoulder. “Don’t worry my friend. I wasn’t asking you anything mushy. I promise.”
He sighed and pulled to a stop. “Good. What are you asking me?”
I tried very hard to put myself in Elizabeth’s shoes. Her level of distrust was earned a hundred times over. I wished that I could wave a magic wand and make her problems disappear, but I couldn’t. And sometimes, I had no idea what kind of fire I was playing with.
“By all accounts, you’re the last man who should be jumping into marriage with that cheesy fucking grin you’ve got on your face, but you have it, and you seem really happy about the choice you’ve made in asking her today.” I shrugged and shifted uncomfortably on my feet. “How do you know when you can move forward without the past pulling you back?”
His face fell and then his jaw ticked as anger took over. “Fuck everyone who ever hurt the women we love. Fuck every one of them.” He shoved his hands in his pockets. “I got a clean break. That past was always coming for me. It was like quicksand. No matter what I did, I couldn’t escape it. Then I got a gift. I was able to surgically sculpt the past right out of my life. Everything pulling me back…it’s gone. I was left with a choice. Do I wallow in the doubts, or do I cut ties and fucking run?” He shook his head. “The choice was pretty clear. I’d take a life of ups and downs with that woman,” he cocked his head toward Allison as she came toward us with a bottle of champagne in her hands, “over anything else. Period.”
“What on earth are you two talking about? Elizabeth is waiting!” Allison huffed as she shot right past us and over to the car, oblivious to the fact she was about to be engaged.
Elizabeth was grinning from ear to ear as she threw her arms around Allison. Her cheeks were red and her eyes were bright. She was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.
“Thank you!” she squealed as she launched herself into my arms. She smelled like petrol and exhaust. Not to mention, the fire retardant suit she was wearing was itchy as hell.
And I didn’t care about anything other than the look in her eyes.
I brushed her sweaty hair back from her face. “You’re happy?”
“So fucking happy!” she breathed, and then kissed me.
Like, kissed me. It was deep and it was dirty. “I always forget how horny you get after driving fast…” I murmured against her lips.
“So horny,” she shook her head, her breathing growing deeper.
“Champagne, then shower sex?”
She shivered as she jumped out of my arms and yanked the zipper down on her suit. “You sir, have a date.”
Fifteen minutes later we were all a little tipsy. I was relieved when Theo whisked Allison away to complete his plan. It left me alone in a fast car with a fast woman that I happened to be madly in love with.
“What are you thinking so hard about over there, lover?” she drawled, feet up on the dashboard, hair spilling everywhere. We had the seats pushed back and down as far as they’d go—which wasn’t far. Not that being squeezed into a small space was a bad thing.
I ran my hand up her leg (the fire suit was now long gone and she was in leggings and a t-shirt) and to the spot I knew would make her sigh.
And sigh she did.
“Oh, Adam…you better get me up to our room. Now.”
“In a minute. Let me warm you up first.”
She groaned and closed her eyes, sinking into the discrete pleasure I was giving her. Everyone outside the car was so busy they weren’t paying any attention to us…or where my hands were wandering.
She lit up for me, her chest rising and falling, her cheeks flushing as I applied pressure in the ways she liked it best. We’d been like this from the moment we met. We sparked. We fed off each other. She made me a better man, and I stood by her side while she put the past behind her. We were good for each other. We were a team. And we were damn good together—in every way possible.
But could she see that through the fog of everything else?
“What are you thinking?” she whispered.
I was so deep in thought I hadn’t realized she was watching me. “About you.”
“What are you thinking about me?”
“That I want to spend the rest of my life with you. That I want everyone to know we belong to each other. That no matter what happens, or where it happens, no one can keep up us from each other.”
She studied me for several long beats, her eyes practically digging inside me. “So what’s stopping you?”
I swallowed. The emotions swirling around the tiny car were far bigger than anything I’d ever dealt with before. “I don’t want to scare you. The last thing I ever want to do is hurt you.”
To my complete surprise, she grinned, then twisted around so that she was leaning toward me, our lips almost touching. Her eyes drifted from my mouth up to my eyes. “I double dog dare you to ask me the question you’re thinking right now.”
Her breathing was ragged. She was turned on, excited, and she was absolutely terrified.
I looked up and waited until it felt like we were wrapped up by some invisible cloak, connected from the current buzzing across my scalp, all the way down my spine, and into my toes. “Will you be my wife?”
She stopped breathing and so did I, and then her head started bobbing up and down, eyes still locked on mine. “Yes,” she finally breathed.
“Yes?” I growled as some sort of alpha-instinct kicked in. I took her face in my hands and pulled her closer.
“Yes,” she repeated, her voice several octaves deeper than it had been a moment before.
“Well isn’t this an interesting development,” I said a split second before I kissed her. She melded into me and it took everything I had not to brand her right there in the driver seat of Theo’s car with all of the revival watching.
Instead I cradled her against me and dropped my hand back down to finish what I’d started.
“Are you absolutely sure you’re ready for something this big and permanent?” I wanted to be absolutely positive this was what she wanted.
She shuddered in my arms, her nails digging into my shoulder. “Yes!” she cried out, a little louder than was prudent, not that we ever cared what anyone thought. “I moved here to cut all those ties. They’re gone, Adam.” Her panting grew deeper, more erratic. She was close and I was about to lose my damn mind.
“I love you, Elizabeth.”
Her eyes flew open, locking with mine as she pulsed against my hand. “I love you too, Adam. I want to marry you. I need to make sure those eyes and lips and hands are legally mine to have and to hold and all that shit.”
She grinned as her post-orgasmic high blissed her out.
“Oh, I’m yours babe. I have been since you grinned at me over your book at Seychelle’s. How about we take this to the shower and explore all the ways you can use and abuse me for the rest of our lives?”
“Someone’s at the door!” Elizabeth yelled from the bathroom. We were…well we were significantly cleaner than we’d been an hour and a half ago. She was drying her hair and getting dressed for dinner while I watched football highlights.
The last person I was expecting to see staring at me through the hotel door peephole was my grandfather.
I ripped the door open. “Senator?”
He grinned and threw his arms open. “Adam! It’s good to see you.” Secret Service, or bodyguards, or whoever the heck traveled with him overseas, stood to either side with more down at the ends of the hallway.
“What are you doing here?” I asked as I hugged him and invited him inside.
“Same as you. I’m a special guest at Revival this year. I saw your lovely girlfriend listed as a driver today and tracked you down.”
“She’s just getting dressed for dinner,” I stammered as I took in the sight of my grandfather, one of the longest serving and famous United States Senators, sitting in my suite. What in the hell was going on? “Can I get you a drink?”
“A scotch would be lovely, if you have something decent.”
I held up the bottle we’d brought with us and poured him two fingers. He immediately downed half of it. That’s when I knew something was wrong.
“Senator McKinley!” Elizabeth gasped as she stepped out of the bathroom dressed in a sexy vintage red cocktail dress and stilettos. Her lips were red, her eyes were dark, and I was suddenly struck by the realization that I couldn’t wait to escape tomorrow to find a ring to put on her finger.
My grandfather shot to his feet and kissed my fiancée on both cheeks. “You look lovely, Elizabeth. And you drive like a bat out of hell.”
“Thank you,” she blushed, throwing me a curious look over his shoulder. “Sit, let’s talk.”
He cleared his throat and my nerves spiked. Were my parents hurt? Was there a terrorist threat? He was the head of the intelligence committee…
“I’m glad I caught you. I was going to set a meeting with you for next week.” He shot the rest of his scotch and set the glass down. “I’m running for president. The announcement is set for the first.”
My jaw dropped. Sure, we all knew the Senator would run one day. It was an inevitability. But now? And with this look on his face? There was more.
“Congratulations. We’ll help in any way we can.” Well, as long as Elizabeth could handle the spotlight. The Senator would understand if we limited our involvement…unless this was about her family.
“I appreciate that. I do need your help on one matter. We’ve been doing the necessary background checks. Digging in places we’ve already dug, but you know how it is when you take things to this level.”
I nodded. I hated it, but I understood.
“We’ve hit one small, new bump in the road. Your aunt. Lydia. Her husband’s finally died and our investigators have discovered she has a son. He’s just a couple of years older than you.”
I instinctively reached for Elizabeth’s hand. She squeezed it. “Aunt Lydia?” she asked.
I nodded. “My mom’s oldest sister. She married this…drunk,” I shrugged as I tried to find the appropriate words to explain the family black sheep. “The family was opposed to the marriage. She was being rebellious and stupid. The man was abusive and went through money faster than he could earn it. Lydia thought he was the answer to her high-profile family nightmares.”
“Your family cut her off?” she guessed.
The Senator stared at his feet, listening but not joining the conversation. This had to be killing him. Letting Lydia go was the regret that always haunted him.
I sighed. “Yeah. The minute she married him, they cut off all ties and told her she was on her own—which was exactly what she wanted. To be free of the family.”
“I’ve kept up with her over the years,” the Senator murmured. The pain…it was so raw and evident in his voice. I couldn’t imagine what it was like to have a child hate me. “Nothing formal or too specific. Just making sure she was alive. We knew she had a son, but we lost track of him for several years. We weren’t sure we’d want to reestablish contact after Jake died, but my investigators have informed me that the son is a good man with a nice family. And that he has no idea about us.”
That wasn’t surprising. From what my mother had told me, Lydia would have done anything and everything to stay as far away from the McKinleys as possible.
“You want me to make contact.” I guessed. There was no way I could ever say no to the haunted look in my grandfather’s eyes.
“You’re close in age and profession, actually. He’s an engineer as well. He’s got a wife and a couple of kids, so I thought,” he glanced at Elizabeth, “perhaps the news would come easier from the two of you.”
“Before the media digs up the connection and surprises them on their doorstep.” And turns a perfectly happy family’s life upside down.
“We’ll go straight from here,” I said.
Elizabeth nodded. “Of course. I’ll make it work.”
If anyone understood what these people were in for, it was her. I needed her help desperately.
“Where are we headed?” I was already fifteen steps into a plan.
“Tampa,” my grandfather said. “The weather should be nice this time of year.”
(Jake & Eve)
“Yes, yes, yessssss!” Eve moaned above me as she came. “You are a freaking genius!” She collapsed on my chest, panting. “Happy house birthday…” she sighed as she quickly moved from exhilarated to sex-drunk, slurring her words.
I chuckled and wrapped my arms around her, looking out at the thunderstorm. The kids were on a play date with Natalie and I’d brought home this ridiculously expensive chaise lounger for our upstairs screened-in porch to celebrate a full year of living in our new house.
Just as the daily afternoon thunderstorm rolled in.
Life is all about timing.
“I take it you like it,” I said as I dropped a couple of kisses on the top of her head.
She nodded. “Does life get any better? I think not.”
She had a very good point. I’d just had amazing sex in the middle of a thunderstorm, on my porch, with the most beautiful woman in the world. Not to mention our two daughters were happy, healthy, and entertained while we indulged in a little marital bliss. Life did not get any better.
We really should have known better than to say that out loud. My phone started ringing from the bedroom. I ignored it.
Eve burrowed in closer and started to drift off. My phone rang again, which was weird, but I ignored it again. Natalie, Lily, and Marie all had a special ringtone. If there was a problem with the kids, I’d know. Whoever was calling me, it was not about the kids.
“I love Sam and Max, I do. But this is nice…” she sighed again.
Peace and quiet was a luxury once you became a parent. But peace and quiet, alone with your spouse? Might as well sell it on the black market. It’s that valuable and rare.
“We need to take advantage of our babysitters more often. We get caught up and forget to schedule down time,” I agreed. That was probably my fault. It was baseball season. Eve barely had enough time to eat, sleep, and spend time with the kids. I needed to pick up the slack and plan the alone time…like I did today.
Obviously planning had its benefits.
“Your phone’s ringing again, Jake. I think you better see who has a stick up their ass before I remove it for them.”
I chuckled as I rolled Eve to the side, offering her my t-shirt as I slipped away. “Here, babe. I’ll be right back.”
By the time I ducked inside, my phone was already ringing again. I was annoyed until I saw who it was.
“What?” I barked. Charlie, my private investigator, only called like this when there was an emergency.
“We have a problem.”
My heart took off. “The kids?”
“No,” he quickly reassured me. “Your family is safe. We have more obtuse problems to deal with. Something I didn’t see coming.” His voice was laced with disappointment. Charlie was the best and he took his job very seriously. Missing a piece of the puzzle was the kind of thing Charlie took personally.
“What is it?”
He took a breath and let it out. “I’ve been contacted by a representative of Senator McKinley. You know the guy?”
I knew of him… “What did he want?”
“That’s the thing,” Charlie said. “He says the senator is your grandfather and the family wishes to make contact. They have a representative landing at TIA now.”
I knew I’d heard every word he said, and yet not one made a lick of sense. “I’m sorry…what did you just say?”
“You said your mother’s family disowned her when she married your father, right?”
“Yeah.” I sank down onto the bed. It really wasn’t safe for me to stand any longer.
“Well, her family is the McKinley. The McKinleys. The political dynasty. They disowned her and have had zero contact until they reached out to me.”
I always knew my mother had taken a twisted joy in punishing her parents by marrying my father. I’d assumed it was your typical overbearing parents not wanting their daughter to marry the abusive alcoholic. A few times I’d imagined she was from a rich family. And yeah, on one of those occasions I’d let myself pretend I was descended from royalty, but I’d never imagined I was right. The McKinleys were American royalty. And apparently…my family?
“Is this a joke?”
Charlie laughed. “Nope. I’ve got the documents they sent me and they line up with the holes I’ve never been able to fill in your family history. I’m assuming this representative they’re sending will have more information. Do you want me to be there?”
I nodded, then realized Charlie couldn’t see me. “Yeah. If you can.”
“I’ll be there. You might want to have someone watch the kids.”
“I’ll take care of it. When will they be here?”
“Four o’clock. I’ll see you then.”
He clicked off and I let the phone dangle from my fingers.
“What’s wrong?” Eve asked, standing naked in our doorway.
“It’s just family shit. Charlie is bringing someone over to talk to me. Can you call Natalie and ask her to keep the kids?” The sooner I found out what the hell this all really was, the sooner I could get it out of my life.
In a blink she was kneeling in front of me. “Tell them to take a hike. We’re busy.” She squeezed my hand.
“Not this time, babe,” I whispered. “We can’t ignore this one.” There was only one reason Senator McKinley—if he was my grandfather—would be making contact now. He had to be running for president. If I ignored this we’d wind up with a sea of reporters on our lawn. It would disrupt our lives so much more than a single meeting with a representative. “It’s one meeting to clear up some confusion. By dinner we’ll be free and clear and back to normal. Promise.”
Eve ran her hand down the side of my face, across my shoulder, and over my bicep. Then she squeezed my arm and rested her head on my knee. The anxiety I was feeling evaporated. It was like that one movement erased it from existence.
I returned the gesture and brushed back her hair. “I love you, Eve Spencer. That’s the only thing that matters in this fucked up world. Loving you and Sam and Max. You don’t have to worry about what this meeting is going to do to my head. I’ve got too much to at stake to let the past pull me back.”
That was the thing about love…it was never about happily ever afters. It was about the fight. True love was in the battle. Standing side by side with your partner, defending each other and celebrating life’s victories. Love was messy and it was beautiful.
Her worry lines disappeared, then she smiled. The sweet, slow, seductive kind. “Damn, you’re sexy when you pull the defensive father card,” she growled.
She’d said that on more than one occasion since the girls entered our lives. Something about men in love with their daughters being the ‘hottest thing ever.’ I was absolutely fine with that.
“I have my problems, we know that. But I will never allow anything to hurt my girls. All three of you. You’re my world.”
“And you’re ours.” She sat up and ran her hands up my thighs. “How long until this meeting?” Her right eyebrow arched up.
I glanced at the clock on my phone. “An hour.” I really liked where this seemed to be heading.
“Then how about I give Natalie a call while you start the shower. I think we need one more round of stress relieving exercise before we face the firing squad.”
“I love the way you think Mrs. Spencer.”
“I love the way you love me, Mr. Spencer.”
As she sashayed around the bedroom, stark naked and mine, I was struck by one very overwhelming thing: I was the luckiest man who ever lived. Despite all the hell I’d survived to get where I was, I’d do it all over again. Going head first into the storm allowed me to come out on the other side stronger than ever. Loving my girls with all my heart and soul was the only way to love them, and I couldn’t do that if I hadn’t dealt with my past. I’d weather a hundred storms for the chance to live this life.
And nothing from my past would take it away from me.
Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed reading REVIVAL, a look at how Tease and The Storm Inside connect! The next stop on the hop is Rebecca Grace Allen. Be sure to comment on each story to be eligible for the massive giveaway at the end. Thanks for joining us for #ValentinesRewind! ♥
When Lighting Strikes
My new standalone in The Storm Inside series is live!!
When Lightning Strikes is a steamy romantic novel! Get your copy today!!
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***Warning: this book contains a surprisingly romantic, foul-mouthed hero. If you are offended by swearing and men who hide their secret soft-side behind a gruff exterior, this book is not for you!
Greg’s a jerk, everyone knows this. He’s made an art form out of pissing people off and swearing with style. What nobody knows is why. The act works on everyone except Marie, a confident, no-nonsense woman. Or in other words, the only woman who can handle Greg. Together they’re passionate and honest in a way he never thought was possible. They have a rare kind of chemistry that makes everything else seem pointless.
Well, except the past. Greg hasn’t been able to let that go, and unless he figures out a way to forgive himself, he’ll lose Marie and his shot at the all-consuming, life-altering happiness he didn’t think he was allowed to have again.
I texted Eve to ask where I should buy these new sheets I suddenly needed, and somehow that turned into a ten-minute phone call.
“Why do you sound out of breath?” she asked.
“Because I’m running.”
“Why are you talking on the phone while you’re running? Shouldn’t you be running?”
“Thank you Captain Obvious. That was why I texted you in the first place.”
She sighed, grumbling something about how a full-grown man should know where to buy sheets. “I just assumed if I was getting a text on a Saturday morning, requesting advice on fucking sheet shopping, that there had to be a story to go along with it.”
I didn’t reply.
“So there is a story…” she drawled.
I still didn’t answer. I knew it wasn’t going to get me anywhere, but I still held out a little hope Eve would let it drop.
“Tell me the fucking story!” she finally yelled into the phone.
I yanked my ear buds out and popped my ears. “Thanks for fucking blowing out my eardrums.” I stopped at the corner and carefully put them back in. “Could you possibly talk without making me deaf?”
She giggled. “You know we each owe Jake a drink now, right?”
“Fuck it.” Jake was sick of hearing us both say “fuck” all the time so he’d imposed a drink rule. Every time we said it more than two times in a conversation we had to buy him a drink. It was fucking stupid and annoying as shit. And the bastard had gotten at least a bottle of liquor out of each of us in the last month. “Fine.” I started down the next street and took a deep breath. There was only one person I’d ever be this girly and honest with, and that was Eve. “I met someone two nights ago. I offered to give her an orgasm, she turned me down.”
“So you shredded your sheets in misery?”
“No.” I replied flatly. “I went out to dinner last night with Chuck and the guys.”
“She was there?” Eve gasped.
“And she didn’t say no twice?” Her voice went up a few octaves with each word in the sentence.
“No she didn’t.”
And then there was the gasp I was expecting as she put two-and-two together. “Wait…you took her home?” And then her voice dropped to a whisper. “Is she still there?”
“Of course not. But yes, I took her back to my place, thus the need for new sheets.”
“What kind of crazy sex did you two have? I mean, Jake and I have crazy sex, but we don’t need new sheets every time.”
I gagged thinking about my best friend and his wife doing it. Jake was like my brother and Eve was essentially the sister I never had. Thinking about them having sex was as gross as thinking about my parents doing it. “Thanks for the visual.”
“What? We’re adults. We can talk about this stuff.”
“Maybe I’m not nearly as evolved as you are.”
“Whatever,” she sighed. “Don’t you have a spare set you can use?”
“Have you seen my condo? Do I look like the kind of guy who keeps coordinating sheets around for the hell of it? Sally washes them once a week while she’s here. I don’t need a second set.”
“Says you,” she grumbled. “So you met someone who actually made you stop and think for a few seconds and now you need to exorcise her from your condo. Bed, Bath & Beyond at the mall should have what you need. I’d offer to help, but I need to have crazy sex with my husband.” There was a squeal in the background and the sound of Jake’s voice in the distance as Eve’s giggle disappeared from the line.