All He Ever Desired

( 70 )

Overview

A second shot at first love?

After college, Ryan Kowalski decided to leave Whitford, Maine, rather than watch Lauren Carpenter marry another man. Now his siblings need his help to refurbish the family-owned Northern Star Lodge and he's forced to face the past sooner rather than later when he collars a vandal—and learns the boy is Lauren's son….

The last person Lauren needs back in her life is Ryan Kowalski. With a bitter ex-husband and a moody ...

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Overview

A second shot at first love?

After college, Ryan Kowalski decided to leave Whitford, Maine, rather than watch Lauren Carpenter marry another man. Now his siblings need his help to refurbish the family-owned Northern Star Lodge and he's forced to face the past sooner rather than later when he collars a vandal—and learns the boy is Lauren's son….

The last person Lauren needs back in her life is Ryan Kowalski. With a bitter ex-husband and a moody teenage son, she has enough man trouble already. But her son needs to learn a few lessons about right and wrong, even if Lauren has to escort him to Ryan's door every day to work off his crime.

With all this close contact, Ryan and Lauren can't deny the chemistry between them is as powerful as ever. But can a few searing kisses erase their past and pave the way for a second chance at true love?

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Stacey’s many existing fans—and likely new ones—will enjoy her second trip to tiny Whitford, Maine, and the ongoing romantic escapades of the Kowalski brothers (begun in All He Ever Needed). Single mother Lauren Carpenter is raising a teenage son, Nick, and wondering if she made a mistake years ago when she refused to run away with Ryan Kowalski. Ryan, her ex-husband’s former best friend and a building company owner, is back in town temporarily to help spruce up the Kowalski family’s lodge and business. After a chance meeting, Lauren discovers she’s still attracted to Ryan but isn’t sure how to proceed. When Nick is caught vandalizing the lodge, Lauren and Ryan are thrown together. Readers will enjoy revisiting other Kowalski family members, including previous protagonists Paige Sullivan and Mitch Kowalski, as Lauren and Ryan (and Nick) find their way to a happy ending. Agent: Kimberly Whalen, Trident Media Group. (Mar.)
From the Publisher
"No one does contemporary romance like Stacey...Very highly recommended." --Library Journal on All He Ever Needed, starred review

"I'm madly in love with the Kowalskis!"- NewYork Times Bestselling author Nalini Singh

"Books like this are why I read romance."
- Smart Bitches, Trashy Books on Exclusively Yours

"Shannon Stacey's books deliver exactly what we need in contemporary romances.... I feel safe that every time I pick up a Stacey book I'm going to read something funny, sexy and loving." –Jane Litte of Dear Author on All He Ever Needed

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780373777563
  • Publisher: Harlequin
  • Publication date: 2/26/2013
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 334,369
  • Product dimensions: 4.10 (w) x 6.60 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

New York Times bestselling author Shannon Stacey lives with her husband and two sons in New England, where her favorite activities are writing stories of happily ever after and riding her four-wheeler. The Stacey family spends many weekends on their ATVs, making loads of muddy laundry to keep Shannon busy when she’s not at her computer. However, she prefers writing to laundry and considers herself lucky she got to be an author when she grew up. Visit her at www.ShannonStacey.com.
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Read an Excerpt

Because hectic Monday mornings didn't suck enough all on their own merits, Lauren Carpenter managed to miss her lashes and apply mascara straight to her eyeball. Cursing and blinking, she groped for a tissue.

She wasn't sure why she bothered making herself up anyway. Over her years working as the entire office staff for the only insurance agent in town, she'd seen communications swing from office visits to phone calls and faxes and then to email. Entire days could go by without anybody but her boss actually stepping foot in the place.

It was the principle, she decided as she mopped up the damage and tried again. She'd long ago given up on giving a crap what anybody thought of her, but it made her feel good to look good. There was a limit, though, and she smiled as she shoved her feet into the battered leather loafers that were even older than Nick. Her feet were usually under her desk anyway.

Thinking of Nick, she glanced at her alarm clock and sighed. Morning battle to commence in three…two…

"Ma!" The bellow made her cringe.

She'd asked him not to shout at her from across the house even more times than she'd asked him not to call her Ma. Ma made her think of calico dresses and aprons and churning butter. It also made her feel old, and being the mother of a sixteen-year-old was reminder enough of that, thank you very much.

Lauren left her bedroom and went down the hall, purposely not glancing into the train wreck that was her son's room, fastening small pearl earrings as she walked. "Don't bellow, Nick."

"If I don't, you won't hear me."

He was in the kitchen, rummaging through his backpack at the table while a full bowl of cereal turned into mush on the counter. "You planning to eat your breakfast?"

Shrugging, Nick pulled a crumpled ball of paper out of his bag. "Yeah. You need to sign this."

"What is it?" She carried the bowl of cereal to the table and traded it for the paper. "Eat. The bus comes in five minutes."

When he kept his eyes down and shoved a heaping mound of cereal in his mouth, Lauren's stomach sank. Whatever the paper was, it wasn't good.

Physically, Nick took after Dean, her ex-husband. Nick's hair was darker than her blond and his eyes were a lighter brown. He'd gotten not only his dad's good looks, but his struggles in school, too.

It was a detention notice, assigned due to missing homework. "Nick, you've only had three weeks of school and you're slipping already?"

"I don't like the teacher," he mumbled around a mouthful of cereal.

"You don't have to like the teacher. You do have to do your homework." He shrugged and the nonverbal whatever was the straw that broke Monday morning's back. "I know which form I won't be signing and that's the driver's ed registration."

"But, Mom—"

"Save it. The bus is coming."

She signed the detention paper while he dumped his bowl in the sink, then watched him ball up the notice and shove it back in his pocket. The faint rumble of the bus came into earshot and he hefted his backpack.

"Walk straight home after detention," she said to the back of his head as he walked toward the front door. "And no video games."

"Uh-huh."

After the door closed behind him—he knew better than to slam it—Lauren leaned against the counter and blew out a breath. Something was going on with her son and she'd be damned if she could put her finger on what. He didn't get a pass because he was a teenager or because of that boys-will-be-boys crap, so it was time for an attitude adjustment. And that meant talking to Dean, because if they weren't on the same page when it came to Nick, she may as well find a brick wall to talk to.

Of course, talking to Dean Carpenter was always like talking to a brick wall. Communication wasn't his strong suit. Their son, though, was more receptive if his parents were giving him the same message. Usually.

She'd have to find a few minutes to talk to her ex when he picked up Nick on Friday evening, which meant having an idea what she was going to say before he showed up. And she'd worry about that some other time, because now she had less than ten minutes to get to work.

It took her twelve to drive across Whitford because she had to stop for gas, so Gary Demarest, insurance agent extraordinaire, was already in when she arrived. She'd worked for him since her divorce eight years before, when she'd been looking for a job in town with mother's hours. Demarest Insurance had mostly fit the bill, though Nick got out of school a couple of hours before she left work. When he was younger, the neighbor had kept an eye on him. Now he was mostly on his own, though in a town like Whitford, somebody was always watching.

"I left some notes on your desk," Gary said. He was in great shape for a man in his mid-sixties and prided himself on being a smart dresser, despite the fact that the majority of his clientele wore jeans and T-shirts. "Paige Sullivan's going to be renting out her mobile home, so she needs a price on adjusting the property insurance accordingly. I'll let you know when I get the numbers together, but you can get started on the paperwork if you get a chance."

"No problem." When Gary disappeared into his office, closing the door behind him, Lauren leaned back in her very nice office chair and sighed.

Paige Sullivan was going to rent out her mobile home because she was marrying Mitch Kowalski and they were going to buy a house together. And, of course, thinking of Mitch naturally led her to think of his brother.

Ryan Kowalski. Her what-if guy when she let herself indulge in ridiculous fantasy. What if she 'd said yes?

He'd been in town a few times lately, she knew, helping his brothers straighten out the Northern Star, their family-owned snowmobile lodge. But, as in the past when he'd visited, he stayed close to home and they never got close enough to speak. She wasn't sure whether it was deliberate, but he'd managed not to run into her since he'd graduated from college.

The phone rang before Lauren could give in to the what-if fantasy, which was a good thing. With Nick needing an attitude adjustment and Dean to deal with, the last thing she needed was another guy with issues. Her ex-husband's ex—best friend could stay out of sight and out of mind where he belonged.

Ryan Kowalski made very few mistakes when it came to running his business, but trapping himself in a pickup with an idiot definitely counted as one. "Put the phone on vibrate."

Dill Brophy snorted, just as the phone in his hand sounded another incoming text with the grating, electronic sound of a duck call. For almost five freaking hours he'd been listening to Dill's phone quack, and if he had a shotgun he'd pull over and play an impromptu round of Duck Hunt. Not even a minute later, it quacked again.

Ryan jerked the wheel hard to the left and had the satisfaction of hearing Dill's head thump against the passenger window.

"Ow! What the hell, man?"

"Pothole."

"Matt wants to know if we're almost there yet." Quack. "Or if not, can we stop for lunch, because it's after lunchtime."

Ryan put on his blinker and pulled over onto the shoulder. Once Matt Russell had pulled in behind him, he turned to Dill. "Let me see your phone."

Rather than throw it out the window and run over it repeatedly, as he wanted to do, Ryan took it and powered it down. Then he got out of the truck, slamming the door with Kowalski Custom Builders painted down the side, and walked back to the identical vehicle Matt was driving. Well, not totally identical. Ryan's had heated leather seats and a custom sound system. It was nice to be the boss.

Matt lowered the window. "What's up?"

"Give me your phone." Since both guys carried company-provided cell phones, refusing wasn't an option. When he had it, Ryan gave the young carpenter a stern look. "You text while driving one of my trucks again, you're fired."

After he tossed both phones into his door pocket, they got back on the road and Ryan took a deep breath when, not long after, they passed the Welcome to Whit-ford, Maine sign. Home again. Dammit.

A while back, when his youngest brother, Josh, had busted his leg and the oldest, Mitch, had gone home to give him a hand, the shit had really hit the fan. The Northern Star Lodge—which had gone from gentleman's hunting lodge to snowmobiling lodge under the ownership of several generations of Kowalskis—was in bad shape, both financially and physically. Some rehab needed doing and, since Ryan was a builder, it was his turn to spend a little time in Whitford.

Because he'd be away from his business for who knew how long, he'd left his top guys and most experienced builders down in Massachusetts to keep the jobs going, which was how he'd ended up stuck with two young, less-experienced pinheads to work with.

That wasn't quite fair. They were good kids and they worked hard. If they weren't he wouldn't have them on his jobs. But his current feelings toward them were colored a bit by four and a half hours of the quacking duck and the twinkly chime that sounded when Dill's pregnant wife texted. And she texted a lot.

For a second, he regretted shutting Dill's phone off, but then he told himself that if there was an emergency, she'd call him or the office, looking for her husband. And when they got to the lodge, he'd give the phones back.

As eager as he was to get to the lodge, he didn't want to show up with two hungry guys looking to rummage through Rosie's kitchen, Ryan decided to stop at the Trailside Diner and let them eat before driving the last few minutes to the Northern Star.

Because it wasn't quite two yet, Paige Sullivan—his future sister-in-law—was behind the counter and she smiled when she saw him.

"Ryan! I didn't know you were coming in today."

He leaned across the counter to kiss her cheek. "It was kind of fluid. Had to wrap up some stuff and wait on a granite delivery, then I made a break for it today."

"Does Rosie know?"

"I called her when I hit the road this morning." Rose Davis was housekeeper at the Northern Star Lodge by title, but she'd helped raise the Kowalski kids after their mother died. Ryan knew better than to pop in without giving her enough advance notice to make his favorite dinner. Not that he expected her to, but Rosie liked to fuss. "Is Mitch at the lodge?"

"He's in Miami for a few days. I don't think he expected you until at least next week."

He realized the guys were hovering behind him, obviously waiting for an introduction, so he gestured to each in turn. "This is Dillon Brophy and Matt Russell. They work for me and they'll be helping out at the lodge. This is Paige Sullivan, my brother's fiancée."

Matt and Dill straightened up, smart enough to catch his cue that Paige was as good as a member of the boss's family. Both guys were in their early twenties, but the similarities ended there. Dill was tall—almost as tall as Ryan—and skinny, with sandy hair and an easy smile.

Matt was shorter, more muscular, and had the dark and serious thing going on. Ryan watched them each shake Paige's hand, both very respectful, before heading off to a table to look over the menu.

"Rosie's just going to eat them up," Paige said, her eyes filled with laughter. "She's always complaining she doesn't have enough people to fuss over anymore."

"They're employees, not grandchildren. She doesn't need to fuss over them and I'll kick their asses if they let her."

The look she gave him was pure skepticism, and he shook his head before joining the guys. They all had cheeseburgers and fries, and Ryan had to admit that, despite the fact he hadn't wanted to stop at the diner, the food hit the spot. The mood was good all around, especially when he told them they could retrieve their phones while he paid. They were out the door before he got all the words out.

"They're worse than kids," he muttered, handing the check and the company credit card to Paige.

"You took their cell phones away? Totally a dadlike move."

"I'm not that old." He signed his name to the slip she handed him, then took his card back. "If you talk to Mitch, let him know I'll be around for a while this time."

"I will."

As he turned to leave, he was aware of the door opening and he stopped walking so he wouldn't run into anybody while tucking his card back into his wallet. Then he looked up.

Dirty-blond hair. Dark-chocolate eyes. A body that time and some added pounds had molded into curves any man would take his time savoring. And a familiar face that hit him like one of his brother's wrecking balls.

Lauren might have forgotten how to breathe for a few seconds. God, he looked good. Even better than he had in her imagination. Since his brothers had aged well, she shouldn't have been surprised by the still-thick dark hair or the flat stomach and broad shoulders shown off by the Kowalski Custom Builders polo shirt. But part of her wished he'd gone downhill a little. Or a lot, actually.

She'd seen him a couple of times since Josh had broken his leg, but always at a distance. So she hadn't been able to see the blue eyes or the way the years had added character to his face, nor could she have smelled whatever delicious cologne or aftershave he was wearing.

And distance meant not having to do this awkward dance of not knowing what to do or say. They hadn't actually spoken since Nick was a baby, when Ryan had asked her a question that could have changed her life and she'd said no.

He was supposed to stay away. It was unspoken, but understood.

"Hi, Lauren." His voice was deeper. Stronger.

"How have you been?"

For a few seconds he looked like he was trying to figure out how to sum up fifteen or so years in a few words, but then he smiled. But it was the polite smile, not the full, devastating grin, for which she should probably be thankful. "I've been good."

"Good. And how are things at the lodge?"

"Good."

"And Josh's leg?"

"It's good."

"That's…good." Now that they'd established everything was good, she'd reached the end of her having-a-clue-what-to-say rope. "I don't have a long lunch break, so I should probably order."

"Of course." He stepped out of her way. "I'll see you…around."

He left before she could say anything else and that was fine, since all she could think to say was "good." And seeing him around would be anything but.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 70 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 12, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    My Review: The one thing I can say about absolutely every book o

    My Review:
    The one thing I can say about absolutely every book of Shannon's from this series is that I am constantly laughing. I love the Kowalski family and the camaraderie that Shannon has created among them. This is a family that loves each other dearly and show it by giving each other a hard time and snarky comments. I love that!

    This book follows Ryan. We met him in the last book and knew that there was something up with his history with Lauren, but WHOA...I had no idea. They do have some history....and it was that history that gave me pause with this book so that I didn't completely fall in love with everything about it. It just started me out with a bad taste in my mouth about Ryan...that he would do that sort of thing. I understand why and I understand his motivation and that he was young and stupid, but it just left me unsettled feeling about him and the whole basis of when they knew each other before.

    But beyond that bit of history, the book was good. Obviously Lauren and Ryan have this history. He's always been her "what-if" guy that she used for fantasy scenarios, so when he comes back to town, it throws her for a loop. Neither one of them has any desire to revisit their past so they get pretty good at avoiding each other. That works until Lauren's teenage son does something that throws them together on a daily basis. Then there is no denying that the feelings between them are still strong.

    Like all the Kowalski books, there's a lot going on here. Lauren's teenage son is dealing with some things which show the difficulties between her and her ex, Dean. Ryan is working on the Lodge and brought two of his young workers with him. His issues with their cell phones and texting kept me giggling throughout the entire book. Mitch and Paige (H/h from bk #4) have their wedding in this book so there were some great scenes with the ENTIRE Kowalski clan. There are also the normal small town gossips and twists & turns happening here.

    Another good installment to this series. It wasn't quite up to my love of the other books, but it still rates pretty high in my list of contemporary books.
    I received a complimentary copy of this book in return for an honest review.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 22, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    All He Ever Desired by Shannon Stacey The Kowalski Series Book 5

    All He Ever Desired by Shannon Stacey
    The Kowalski Series Book 5
    Ryan Kowalski has come back to Northern Star Lodge in Whitford, Maine to help his brothers get it fixed up to sell. He’s been home over the past few years and each time he tries to ignore the beautiful Lauren. This time is different. Not only does he run into her in town, he catches her son vandalizing their property and makes Nick work it off. Leaving Lauren to come by the lodge to pick her son up and maybe giving Ryan a second chance. 




    Lauren Carpenter had been in love with Dean. Little did she realize before it was too late that Dean didn’t exactly return her feelings. She did not regret having her son, Nick. Even when he fell into the criminal category and had to work off his crimes with Ryan, a man she had an unusual past with. A man too handsome for any women to resist. Even her. Too bad he lives almost five hours away and will be returning there after repairing the lodge.




    Once again Shannon takes us into the world of the lovable Kowalski family. Two of the brothers have found their forever loves, Sean and Emma’s story is in book 3: Yours To Keep and Mitch and Paige’s story is in Book 4: All He Ever Needed. As always we see hints of other love interests within the story as well to keep the reader looking forward to the next book. Which will be Josh’s story in All He Ever Dreamed. A really enjoyable series from the beginning. Book 1 is Exclusively Yours and book 2 is Undeniably Yours.
    **Sexual situations and language

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 5, 2013

    All He Ever Desired  All He Ever Desired is another delightful

    All He Ever Desired 

    All He Ever Desired is another delightful story in the Kowalski world, one guaranteed to keep readers returning for more.  To see more, visit BookTrib or RomanticReadsandSuch 

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 28, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    I love this series and can't wait for the next book because I h

    I love this series and can't wait for the next book because I have grown so attached to the Kowalski clan and want to read all their happy endings. However this book was missing something the other books had. I can't put my finger on it just yet. Chemistry? Maybe depth? Pizzazz? I still liked it just not like the other books in this series. It might be because Ryan was not one of my favorite Kowalski. I didn't know much about him and wasn't as excited to have his book. It is still good just not as great as the others.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 17, 2013

    As much as it pains me to say it I think it's safe to say I've f

    As much as it pains me to say it I think it's safe to say I've fallen out of love with the Kowalski family, or rather with Stacey's writing. A damn hard thing to swallow after being so smitten with the first three books in the series. They were that perfect mix of delicious romance, heat, real emotion turmoil and, what I think made them so fantastic, laugh-so-hard-you-cry humor. Unfortunately, as with the previous release, hardly any of that was seen in All He Ever Desired.

    One of the problems, I think, was that the book suffered from too much "real life" monotony without even a hint of humor to make it fun, fresh and not so...boring. Though things do pick up the last half of the book (except in the humor department) for a good portion of the story I found myself tapping my fingers on my thigh and wishing I could read faster so I could just finish the book already and move on. And that's not something that happens to me often especially with a book that doesn't even break 200 pages.

    As for the romance while it did take a while for me to see that spark between Ryan and Lauren their relationship was more real and believable than the previous book and I could really buy into these two in the end. The sex was much steamier and more abundant and I could see the two together as a couple. See them falling in love and being happy together.

    As a drama? All He Ever Desired would probably work. There's family clashes, relationship bumps, illnesses, etc that will sort of pull you in. But as a light contemporary romance that lifts your spirits, which is how the series felt in the beginning, it falls utterly short and left so much to be desired. In the end I think it's time I called it quits with this series. I'll always treasure those first three books but the magics just not in them for me anymore.

    *A copy was provided in exchange for an honest opinion

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