One of my favorite people on the planet is this lady, Cathryn Fox. We’ve known each other for years and have shared space in anthologies. She’s an all-round good person with a great book coming out next Tuesday, April 10th!
Public relations specialist Allison Cooper is more than ready to handle a career make-or-break assignment: to develop and market a charity calendar featuring hot men. Her only problem is Mr. July, a sexy cop who happens to be her ex-lover.
Trying to keep his image squeaky clean a must for her promotion raises all sorts of challenges, especially when this bad boy is throwing a little kink into her plan.
Image is the last thing on Carter James’s mind. He agreed to be Mr. July on one condition that during his promo month, Allison never leaves his side. He wants her back, and to make that happen he needs her undivided attention to teach him good from bad. Unless bad is what the lady wants
After excusing herself, she made her way into the back room, stopping at a few tables along the way to chat with her old friends. Happiness welled up inside her as she took a quick moment to catch up with the boys. She really did miss this place, and these men.
In the back she found Madison racking the balls, and Blaine had disappeared into the crowd. She couldn’t help but think that was a good thing. Unlike Carter who’d joined the force right out of high school, Blaine had joined later in life, and Carter always seemed agitated around the new rookie. Allison always assumed it had something to do with her, and the fact that she and Blaine went way back.
As she spoke quietly to Madison, detailing the events for next week’s launch at the beach, she could feel Carter’s eyes on her. It rattled her more than she liked to admit.
“Hey, sweet thing.”
Allison twisted around, and before she could greet Blaine, he swept her into his arms and spun her. What was it with cops and bear hugs anyway?
She laughed and felt a little dizzy when he set her back down. She was just about to say hello when Carter came up beside her. He put his arm around her waist, as if to lay claim, then pulled her in tight.
His voice held a challenge when he asked, “Is there something we can do for you, Blaine?”
Standing eye to eye, Blaine glared back at Carter and tension crackled in the air.
Allison jabbed Carter with her elbow, her anger spiking. “Stop it, Carter,” she said between clenched teeth, hating that he’d turned this into some sort of pissing contest.
Picking up on the tension, Madison slipped her arm into Blaine’s. “Come on, big boy. I’ll let you buy me a drink.” Allison gave Madison a grateful smile as she led Blaine away.
“She’s too good for you, pal. When are you going to stop being such a selfish bastard and realize that,” Blaine shot out as the crowd swallowed them up.
Carter made a move to follow but she stopped him. “Carter,” she warned. “What do you think you’re doing?”
“I don’t like the way he looks at you.”
She fixed him with a hard look of her own and fisted her hands. God, the man infuriated her sometimes. “You should stop sticking your nose in where it doesn’t belong.”
“And I don’t like the way he touches you,” he added.
“Who I touch and who touches me is none of your business.”
“Ally,” he reached for her, and when she held her hand up and pressed it to his chest to keep him at a distance, Carter winced and stepped back.
In the span of a second, she went from angry to concerned. But wasn’t that the way it always was when she was around Carter. He took her on an emotional roller-coaster ride and left her reeling. Then again, after feeling numb for the last four months, she couldn’t deny that it exhilarated her to feel something, anything.
She eyed him carefully. “What is it?”
He pulled his T-shirt away from his skin. “Burn.”
Allison shook her head and thought about the oil she’d coated him in earlier that afternoon. No wonder he was burnt. Deep-tanning oil provided very little protection from the blazing summer sun. “I’ll have to talk to Drake.” She lifted his T-shirt to take a look then crinkled her nose. “You need aloe. I have some at my place.”
When she caught his glance and the sexy, playful smile curving his mouth, she asked, “What?”
“Was that an invitation?”
She purposely whacked him and turned away, needing to distance herself from him as much as possible. Carter’s howl of pain sounded in her ears as she moved out of his reach.
“You deserved it.” She tossed the words over her shoulder and grabbed her beer from the bar before making her way to the outdoor deck overlooking the ocean. The old wooden steps groaned beneath her, and she shook her head and wondered if on some deeper level, it really was an invitation. Lord knows Freud would have a field day with her.
Working to forget how infuriating Carter could be at times, she leaned against the wooden rail and inhaled the salty sea air as she stared at the ocean. The wind rustled the planter beside her and the scent of flowers filled the night. As gulls squawked overhead, the sound mingled with the roar of the surf and she stopped to think about the last time she’d been on the beach. Honestly, she couldn’t even remember when she’d last gone for a swim or a run in the surf.
Carter was right, she’d been so busy burying herself in her work and trying to climb her way to the top that she hadn’t made time for personal pleasure. Just thinking about it now had her wanting to go squish the warm sand between her toes, to feel the cool Atlantic water rise up to meet her feet.
“I suppose I did.” The sound of Carter’s voice came from behind her.
“What?” Allison spun to see him leaning against the rail a few feet away. She should have known he’d follow her. Then again, maybe on some level she’d hoped he would.
With testosterone oozing from his every pore, Carter stood with his feet crossed at the ankles and his thumb hooked in his belt buckle, pulling his jeans low on his hips. In his other hand he held his beer, and she wondered how it would taste on his mouth.
“I suppose I did deserve it.” There was something about that sheepish expression he wore that made him look sexy as hell. “Forgive me?”
“No.” She turned away from him and briefly closed her eyes, completely distressed by his presence and what it did to her traitorous body.
“Hey,” he said, crossing the deck to take up position beside her. “Come on. If I promise to play nice and bring Blaine a dozen donuts tomorrow, will you forgive me?”
“Since when do you ever play nice?”
He got close, too close, until their bodies were touching in that old familiar way that had her craving him with an intensity that made it hard to stay mad at him. When she turned toward him, he slipped his finger under her chin and tilted her face until they were eye to eye. His tone was soft, full of desire when he murmured, “I can play nice, Ally.”