All a Man Can Be (Silhouette Intimate Moments Series #1215)

All a Man Can Be (Silhouette Intimate Moments Series #1215)

by Virginia Kantra

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Leaving the losers in your life. That was Nicole Reed's goal. And then he opened the door. Long, lean, gorgeous and definitely rough around the edges, Mark DeLucca was everything Nicole longed for—and everything she'd come to Eden to avoid.

Then she started hearing the rumors



Leaving the losers in your life. That was Nicole Reed's goal. And then he opened the door. Long, lean, gorgeous and definitely rough around the edges, Mark DeLucca was everything Nicole longed for—and everything she'd come to Eden to avoid.

Then she started hearing the rumors about Mark. And stumbled across his secret. Seems that Mark had just inherited a son he'd never known about. Now the ex-military man was fumbling with being a daddy and turning to Nicole for help both day and night.

But was this newfound need something Nicole could believe was just for her?

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Trouble in Eden Series , #3
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All A Man Can Be

By Virginia Kantra

Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.

Copyright © 2003 Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0373272855


Chapter One

Both the babe and her ride gleamed, high maintenance and fully loaded. Bartender Mark DeLucca stepped closer to the window to get a better look. Yeah. The ride was a Lexus SUV, a cashmere-beige LX470. The woman had to be Nicole Reed. The new owner of the Blue Moon wore a you-can't-afford-this tailored shirt and a you-can't-touch-me attitude. Rich, Mark judged. Blond, to match the car. And late. Three strikes, sweetheart, and you're out. He gave the bar a last swipe with a rag and crossed the planked floor to let her in. She was sorting through the keys in her hand when he unlocked the door. "Looking for someone?" he asked. She blushed. In embarrassment? Nah. Irritation. Recovering, she offered him a polished smile and a smooth hand. She wore thin gold rings on her fingers and neat pearl studs in her ears. Classy. Feminine. Very sexy. A pale, tiny scar on her upper lip emphasized the perfection of her face. It was his rotten luck she turned him on. "How do you do?" she said. "I'm Nicole Reed." "Mark DeLucca." Her hand was cool and firm. He held it a heartbeat too long, just to see if he could make her blush again. She didn't. She looked ... blank, Mark decided. Not disapproving or flirtatious. Not hopeful. Not intrigued. Not any of the things a woman usually put on her face when she thought she had his attention. He was annoyed to find his ego was pricked. "It was nice of you to meet me like this," Nicole said politely. Mark shrugged. "Not really. You're paying for my time." She met his gaze straight-on. "Yes. I am." It was a line drawn in the sand. Mark almost smiled. He ate girls like little Miss Michigan Avenue for breakfast. He opened the door wider. "Then I better offer you a drink." She frowned. "It's only ten o'clock." "Ten-twenty," he said. Her composure flickered. "Yes, I ... I know. I'm sorry." "Traffic?" he asked easily. She lifted her chin. "No." No more explanation than that. "You are late," he said. "But still too early for a drink," she countered. Great. Carry Nation had just bought herself a bar. Mark walked toward the gleaming wooden length of it, saying over his shoulder, "I've got seltzer. Soda. Orange juice. Or I could make you coffee, if you want." "Oh. I would like a diet cola. Please." She followed him, her tasteful leather pumps clicking on his hardwood floor. Her hardwood floor, Mark reminded himself. He grabbed her Pepsi and shoveled ice into a glass. She didn't strike him as the kind of girl who drank from a can. He put the drink on a napkin and slid it across the bar. "You want me to ring that up?" A gleam appeared in her cool blue eyes. So maybe she had a sense of humor after all. But all she said was, "That won't be necessary, thank you." She sipped her drink and looked around the bar. He knew it all already: the dark booths, the clustered tables, the stuffed pike and the lineup of neon signs on the walls. So he watched her instead. She swiveled gently back and forth on her stool, back straight, long slim legs in tailored khakis crossed. "Isn't it a little dark in here?" It was a bright, clear September morning. The sun, slanting through the shutters, glinted off the bottles behind the bar and the glassy eyes of the stag's head mounted above the pool table. Mark raised an eyebrow. "This can't be the first time you've seen the place." "No," she acknowledged. "Kathy Webber showed me the plans." Kathy Webber was the real estate agent who had handled the sale of the bar. Mark had met her. New in town, redhaired and hungry. She'd offered to show him the plans, too. Along with some other things. "She give you the tour, too?" "Yes. But it's not the same as actually sitting here like a customer." "Most of our customers come at night." "It just seems a shame to shut out that wonderful lake view." "There is no view at night." "The lights from the hotel? The moonlight on the water?" Mark shrugged and didn't answer. If she wanted to romanticize the place, that was her business. But the bar's patrons didn't come for the view. She set her drink on the center of her napkin. "We'll have to do a use study, tracking our sales by the hour." A use study, hell. He'd just told her the bar did most of its business at night. "I'm surprised you didn't do one already," he said. She twisted the pretty gold rings on her fingers. "I should have. I would have. But the owner was in a hurry to sell." "Yeah, I heard that." If Heather Brown hadn't been so anxious to sell up and leave town after her husband went to prison, Mark might have had time to scrape up more money. Nicole left off fiddling with her rings and smiled at him. "I guess I was impulsive." She sounded almost pleased, as if "impulsive" was a big deal for her. It made him almost like her. "I guess you got lucky," he said. "That, too. Fortunately, the only other offer for the bar wasn't serious." Mark felt his shoulders tense. "How do you know that?" "Insufficient capital." She sipped her diet soda, unaware she'd said anything to offend him. "And from what I understand, the prospective buyer had an inadequate business plan and no background to obtain the necessary bank funding." "And you do," he said flatly. "Well, yes. I was chief financial officer for" She didn't look old enough to be CFO of her own lemonade stand. "Which is what? A dating service?" "Internet service provider," she corrected him. "Connections provided immediate hookups and excellent customer service for a low basic rate." "Why aren't you still doing that, then?" Her gaze dropped back to her rings. "The founder sold the company to a larger provider." Mark leaned against the bar. "You agreed with his decision?" "I profited from it." "And decided to sink your profits into running a bar." "I decided to invest in providing real goods and services to people with whom I would have a warm, live, human connection, yes." Mark thought of inviting Blondie up to his place for some one-on-one, warm, live, human connection and then dismissed the idea. He was past the point where he got off being anybody's walk on the wild side. Besides, he didn't want to get fired that fast. "You got any experience running a bar?" he asked. "I've read extensively." "But you don't have experience." Her lips tightened. "I have a strong work ethic, a business degree from the University of Chicago, sufficient working capital and excellent ideas. I can hire people with experience." She sounded like a walking textbook. Small Business Management for Dummies, maybe. Resentment licked along his nerves like a match set to brandy. He lifted an eyebrow. "People like me." "It was my understanding you came with the Blue Moon." "You mean, like the tables and chairs or the leftover scotch?" He shook his head. "Sorry, babe. I agreed to manage this place while they found a buyer, but I'm not for sale. Whether I stick around or not depends." "On what?" "On you." (Continues...)

Excerpted from All A Man Can Be by Virginia Kantra Copyright © 2003 by Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Meet the Author

USA TODAY bestselling author Virginia Kantra credits her enthusiasm for strong heroes and courageous heroines to a childhood spent devouring fairy tales. A five-time Romance Writers of America RITA Award finalist, she has won numerous writing awards, including the Golden Heart, Maggie Award, Holt Medallion, and two National Readers' Choice Awards.

She has sold over a dozen books to Silhouette, including her popular Trouble in Eden series for the Silhouette Intimate Moments line.

Virginia is married to her college sweetheart, a musician disguised as the owner of a coffeehouse. They make their home in North Carolina with three teenagers, two cats, a dog and various blue-tailed lizards that live under the siding of their home. Her favorite thing to make for dinner? Reservations.

She loves to hear from readers. You can email her at

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