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Mitch Kowalski lives out of a suitcase—and he likes it that way.
Traveling for work has the added bonus of scaring off women who would otherwise try to tie him down. But when he's called home to help with the family lodge, he's intrigued by the new girl in town and her insistence that she doesn't need a man. If there's one thing Mitch can't ...
Mitch Kowalski lives out of a suitcase—and he likes it that way.
Traveling for work has the added bonus of scaring off women who would otherwise try to tie him down. But when he's called home to help with the family lodge, he's intrigued by the new girl in town and her insistence that she doesn't need a man. If there's one thing Mitch can't resist, it's a challenge.
After a nomadic childhood, Paige Sullivan is finally putting down roots. Determined to stand on her own two feet, she lives by the motto "Men are a luxury, not a necessity." But when Mr. Tall, Dark and Hot pulls up a stool in her diner and offers her six weeks of naughty fun with a built-in expiration date, she's tempted to indulge.
They're the perfect match for a no-strings fling. Until they realize their sexy affair has become anything but casual
"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
"Books like this are why I read romance."
- Smart Bitches, Trashy Books on Exclusively Yours
"This contemporary romance is filled with charm, wit, sophistication, and is anything but predictable"– Heart to Heart, BN.com, on Yours to Keep
He was home again. Or he would be after he passed straight through town and nursed the bike down the long dirt drive that led to the Northern Star Lodge. As eager as he was to get there, though, he eased up on the throttle as the first lights of Main Street came into view.
It had been three years since he'd visited his hometown, but he could have navigated the road with his eyes closed. Past the post office where he'd landed his first real job, then lost it because old man Farr's Playboy subscription was a hell of a lot more interesting than sorting electric bills. Then the Whitford General Store & Service Station, owned by Fran and Butch Benoit. Junior year, he'd taken their daughter to the prom and then taken her up against the chalkboard in an empty classroom.
Mitch downshifted and executed a lazy rolling stop at the four-way that passed for the town's major intersection. To the left were two rows of ancient brick buildings that housed the bank and town offices and an assortment of small businesses. To the right, the police department—which had had its fill of the Kowalski boys in their youth—and the library, which had been fertile hunting grounds for a teenage boy looking to charm the smart girls out of their algebra homework.
Yeah, it was good to be home, even if everything was closed up tight for the night. The people of Whitford knew if they had business in town, they'd best get it done before the evening news.
He went straight through the intersection, but he didn't go far before the old diner caught his eye. Or the sign did, rather, being all lit up. Last time he'd passed through, the place had been closed up tight—driven out of business by a bad economy and an owner who didn't care enough to try to save it. But now there was a new name on the sign, a couple of cars in the parking lot and flashing red neon in the window declaring it open.
His stomach rumbled, though he felt it rather than heard it due to the loud pipes on his bike, and he pulled into the parking lot. Josh, his youngest brother, wasn't expecting him—unless the boxes of clothes and other stuff he'd shipped ahead had arrived—and he would have already eaten anyway. Rather than go rummaging for leftovers, Mitch decided to grab a quick bite before heading on to the lodge.
The first thing he noticed when he walked through the door was the remodeled fifties decor, with a lot of red vinyl and black-and-white marble. The second thing he noticed was the woman standing behind the counter—a woman he'd never seen before, which was rare in Whitford.
Mitch put her at maybe thirty, seven years younger than him, and it looked good on her. She had a mass of brown hair twisted and clipped up into one of those messy knots that begged to be let loose. Jeans and a Trailside Diner T-shirt hugged sweet curves, and her ring finger was bare of either a gold band or a fresh tan line.
A little plastic rectangle was pinned above the very nice mound of her left breast. Name tags were a rare thing in a town where relationships were formed in playpens and cemented in the kindergarten sandbox, so it caught his attention. By the time he took a seat on a red padded stool at the counter, he could read it. Paige.
He deliberately sat with his back to the two other couples in the place in the hope they wouldn't recognize him right off. One, because he'd rather Josh heard he was back in town from him, not the grapevine. And, two, because he was a lot more interested in maybe getting acquainted with Paige than getting reacquainted with whoever was in those booths.
"Please." Her eyes were brown, even darker than the coffee she poured into an oversize mug for him. "You're new here."
She gave him a look over her shoulder while setting the carafe back on the warmer. "I've been here every day for almost two years, but I've never seen you before. New's relative, I guess."
He plucked a menu from between the condiment rack and the napkin holder, wondering if the food choices had gotten an update, too, along with the sign and the vinyl. "I had my first taste of ice cream in that booth right over there."
She leaned her hip against the stainless steel island the coffeemaker sat on and looked him over. "Tall, dark and handsome, with pretty blue eyes. You must be one of Josh's brothers."
Usually a guy didn't like being told he had a pretty anything, but he'd learned a long time ago having pretty eyes led to having pretty girls. "I'm the oldest. Mitch."
Her smile lit up her face in a way that elevated her from just pretty to pretty damn hot. "Oh, I've heard some stories about you."
He just bet she had. There was no shortage of stories about him and his brothers, but he couldn't help wondering if she'd heard the one about the backseat of Hailey Genest's dad's Cadillac since it was a Whitford favorite. Rumor had it when old man Genest finally traded the car in for a newer model, it still had the cheap wine stains in the carpet and the gouges from Hailey's fingernails in the leather.
Even though he'd only been seventeen at the time—to Hailey's nineteen—he still heard about those gouges if he got within speaking distance of Mr. Genest. Since Mrs. Genest's looks came off as a little more speculative than condemning, he tended to avoid her altogether. Not easy in a town like Whitford, but he could be quick when he needed to be.
"So you're the one who blows stuff up?" she asked when he didn't offer up any comment about the stories she'd heard, as if there was anything to say. While there might be a little embellishment here and there, most of them were probably true.
"You could say that." Or you could say he was one of the most respected controlled-demolition experts in the country. His education, hard work and safety record never excited people as much as the thought of him getting paid to blow stuff up, though. "You still got meat loaf on the menu?"
"First thing the selectmen told me when I applied for a permit is that you can't have a diner in New England without meat loaf."
"I'll take that, and I'll pay for an extra slab of meat-loaf and a bucket load of gravy."
"How about I give you the extras on the house as a welcome-home present?"
"Appreciate it," he said, giving her one of his charming smiles—the one that made his pretty eyes sparkle, or so he'd been told. And since he'd been told that by women in the process of letting him slide into second base, he was inclined to believe them.
He could tell by the flush creeping up from the collar of her shirt she wasn't immune to him. Nor was he immune to the subtle sway of her hips as she walked to the pass-through window and handed the order to a young man he was pretty sure was Mike Crenshaw's oldest boy. Gavin, he thought his name was.
Dropping an old casino in the middle of crowded Las Vegas to make way for a grander one was an intense job, so it had been at least a couple of months since Mitch had blown off steam between the sheets. And a six-week cap on the relationship was perfect. He could enjoy the getting-to-know-you sex and the know-you-wellenough-to-push-the-right-buttons sex, but be gone before the I'm-falling-in-love-with-you-Mitch sex.
He checked out the sweet curve of her ass when she bent down to grab a bucket of sugar packets, and he grinned. It was damn good to be home.
Hearing the stories—and, oh boy, were there some good ones—hadn't prepared Paige Sullivan for the reality of Mitch Kowalski taking up a stool in her diner. With his just-long-and-thickenough-to-tousle dark hair and the blue eyes and easy smile, he could have been a star of the silver screen, not a guy who had just happened in looking for some meat loaf.
And maybe a little company, judging from what she'd heard. Supposedly, he was always in the mood for a little company. Unfortunately for him—and maybe a little for her—all he'd get at the Trailside Diner was the blue plate special.
"So where you from?"
Paige shrugged, not looking up from the sugar holders she was refilling. "I'm from a lot of places originally.
Now I'm from Whitford."
"Nope. Mom with a.. free spirit." Mom with a few loose screws was more accurate, but she wasn't in the habit of sharing her life story with her customers.
"How'd you end up here?"
"That old cliche—my car broke down and I never left." She topped off his coffee, but she was too busy making desserts for table six to stand around at the counter and chat.
As she built strawberry shortcakes, she grew increasingly aware of the fact Mitch was watching her. And not just the occasional glance because she was the only thing moving in his line of sight. No, he was blatantly checking her out. Since she was out of practice being an object of interest, it made her self-conscious, and the fact he was the best-looking guy to pass through the Trailside Diner since she'd opened its doors didn't help any.
No men, she reminded herself. She was fasting. Or abstaining. Or whatever-iwg word meant she wasn't accepting the unspoken invitation to get horizontal in any man's eyes, no matter what he looked like. No. Men.
Gavin called her name a few minutes after she served up the desserts, and she grabbed the hot plate of meat loaf from the window. Mitch gave her a very appreciative smile before picking up his fork.
Ignoring the zinging that smile caused—because she wasn't zinging, dammit—she turned her back on him and started a fresh pot of coffee. Normally she wouldn't so near to closing on a weekday night, but she didn't have enough for one refill each should her customers be in the mood to forgo sleep in favor of caffeine and small talk.
Once the coffee was brewing, Paige pulled a clean bus pan out from under the counter and went from table to table, pulling the ketchup bottles and trying not to think about the man at the counter. She knew Mitch Kowalski had a dangerous job, and he certainly looked the part of the bad boy, in faded blue jeans and a black T-shirt hugging an upper body that screamed of physical labor.
Come to think of it, she knew a lot about the oldest Kowalski. While all the brothers were practically heralded as golden boys around town, there was a special gleam in the eyes of the female population when Mitch's name came up. Right on the heels of the gleam came the details, and if there was one thing she knew about the man, it was that he didn't disappoint.
Using her butt to push through the swinging doors, she took the bus pan of ketchup bottles back to the walk-in cooler. She wouldn't refill them until the morning, but she took a minute, hoping the chill would cool her overheating face. Okay, and maybe her body.
If a seventeen-year-old Mitch could make a young woman dig her fingernails into the leather seat of her dad's new car, just imagine what an experienced, thirtysomething Mitch could do. Not that he'd be doing anything to her, since she was abstaining, but imagining was an ing word that couldn't really hurt.
The strangest thing about the Mitch Kowalski stories was the lack of animosity. It didn't seem possible a man could romance a healthy percentage of the young women in a small town without leaving a trail ofjealousy and broken hearts, but it seemed to her he'd managed. Dreamy-eyed nostalgia was the legacy he'd left behind.
By five minutes of closing, the place was empty except for Mitch and an older couple lingering over their lukewarm mugs of decaf, so she went ahead and turned off the Open sign. Her part-time waitress, Ava, who usually did the closing shift, was sick, so Paige had done the whole shebang, from 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., and she was ready to collapse into bed.
Mitch met her at the cash register with his bill and cash. "What time's breakfast?"
"Six a.m." At least she managed not to groan out loud in dread of the four-thirty alarm.
He chuckled and shook his head. "Let me rephrase that. How late can I get breakfast?"
It hadn't occurred to her she'd be seeing that much of him. It was a lot easier to resist temptation when temptation wasn't sitting at her counter, watching her work. "Breakfast all day, but no poached eggs after eleven."
He looked as if he was going to say more, but the couple from table six had figured out it was closing time and were on their way to the register. After giving her a smile that jump-started the forbidden zinging again, he walked out and she focused her attention on cashing out her final customers of the very long day.
When she went to twist the dead bolt on the door behind them, Mitch was at the edge of the parking lot, getting ready to pull out onto the road on what was a very big bike. The motorcycle rumbling between his legs was a black beast of a machine. While the leather saddlebags hid her view of his thighs, she couldn't miss the way his T-shirt stretched across his broad shoulders.
As he revved the engine and pulled into the street, Mitch turned his head and for a long moment they made eye contact. Then he smiled and hit the throttle, disappearing into the night.
No men. Paige flipped off the outside lights and turned away from his fading headlights. For two years she'd avoided having a man in her life. But temptation had never come in a package like Mitch Kowalski.
Mitch stood next to his bike with his arms crossed, his pleasure at being home eclipsed by the condition of the Northern Star Lodge.
How could things have gone so downhill in just three years? The front of the lodge—what he could see by the landscaping lights—looked, if not quite run-down, at least a little shabby. Paint on the porch peeling. Weeds growing around the bushes. One of the spindles on the stair railing was missing. He didn't even want to imagine what the place looked like in the full light of day.
His great-grandfather had built the lodge as a family getaway back when the Kowalskis were rolling in dough, and it had started its life as a massive New En-glander with a deep farmer's porch. It was painted the traditional white, and the shutters, originally black, had been painted a deep green by his mother in an effort to make it look less austere. He could see one of those shutters was missing and several were slightly askew. They all needed painting.
At some point his great-grandfather had added an equally massive addition in an L off the back corner, with the downstairs becoming a large kitchen with a formal dining room, and the upstairs being the servants' quarters.
His son, Grandpa Kowalski, hadn't fared well with the stock market, though, being a lot more of a risk taker than he was a savvy businessman and, when the old family money was gone, along with the big house in the city, he'd reinvented the vacation home as an exclusive gentleman's hunting club, and the Northern Star Lodge was born. The servants' quarters became the family quarters. With the next generation, the hunters eventually gave way to snowmobilers and now Josh ran the place, but the five kids owned it together.
The boards creaked under Mitch's feet as he climbed the steps to the heavy oak front door, which squeaked a little on its hinges. The place was going to hell in a handbasket.
Posted January 2, 2013
As much as I love the Kowalski's this one really just didn't work for me. From the lack of character
development to the "romance", depressing secondary storylines to the glaring absence of the slightly
insane family dynamic you can't help but love and wish you were a part of. It all lacked Stacey's usual
humor and sweetness and what makes reading one of her books such an emotionally wonderful and
Paige and Mitch were decent enough characters and their start had a lot of potential. He avoids
putting down roots at all costs and is home just for a couple weeks to help with an injured brother
when he meets Paige who is off men, fiercely independent and firmly planted in the small town he
tries to avoid. There are some funny moments and smoldering looks there at the start but it just fizzles
into a book that focuses more and more on sex for the sake of sex instead of the characters falling in
love and growing as individuals.
There was a lot of telling in this book and not nearly enough showing. We constantly hear about Mitch's
many, many conquests and how magnificent the man is in bed. And let me just say...EEWWWW.
Who wants a hero that's spent time between nearly every pair of thighs in sight? Gleck! I mean, I know
a lot of heroes have pasts and have gotten around but we're damn near beat over the head with how
much Mitch got around and how it's Paige's turn to get her some good loving and then send him on
his way. Very romantic, right? And for all that talk of his godlike sexual talents the intimate scenes are
really lackluster and honestly not all that sexy or emotional.
Mitch and Paige felt just like what they were...friends with benefits and nothing more. I never felt them
falling in love. There's a lot of inner thought's about how much they like the other. How sweet, caring
and wonderful they are but you never actually SEE any of it or what makes them special to each other.
As for the secondary storylines neither really brought out the emotional response I'd imagine they were
going for. There's a depressingly sad marriage breaking up because of a decade worth of lies. And a
decades long feud that really had no merit since the woman blamed and hated the man for something
he really wasn't responsible for.
What I found most disheartening was that after 280ish pages (yeah it's a short book) I really don't feel
like I know Mitch or Paige. At all. I never got to the point where I felt invested in them and their future
together. It was just a story to read and move on from. A complete opposite of the previous 3 books
which are still near and dear to my heart after nearly 10 months. For a huge fan of the series this was
a very big let down and aside from Stacey's name being scrawled across the cover I wouldn't believe
it was written by the same author I've come to adore. I've got my fingers crossed the next book will
bring us back to the feel and heart of the Kowalski family I've loved so much.
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Posted November 11, 2013
I Also Recommend:
I love this series. Once I found the first book I had to read all of them and they did not disappoint my. Shannon Stacey writes some fun and sexy books. That being said this was not my favorite book. I liked Mitch and Paige's characters but the book was very slow for the first half of the book. To me there was to much other stuff going on and not enough story about their romance. I loved the last half of the book though and I will be reading Ryan's book soon.
Posted July 30, 2013
Reviewed for Read Your Writes Book Reviews by Kim
Shannon Stacey is an author I’ve always wanted to read. In all honesty, I’ve read one of her Christmas stories a few years ago but never one of her full length novels. I’ve heard great things about the Kowalski brothers and wanted to give the books a try.
So I’m going to make this review short and sweet. I didn’t have any problems keeping up with the book so the series doesn’t have to be read in order. Did I have some issues with the book? Yes. But not enough to not want to read the other books in the series. That is good since I bought the first two before I read this one and had another one gifted to me.
Mitch Kowalski is the oldest of the Kowalski siblings. He owns and runs one of the countries most successful demolition companies. His job requires him to travel a lot and he loves it. He’s back in his hometown of Whitford, Maine for a couple weeks to help his youngest brother, Josh, out with the family resort, the Northern Star Lodge. Paige Sullivan has always wanted a place to call home. By accident, she found it. She refuses to be anything like her mother, so she has sworn off of men. Paige is happy running the town’s diner, Trailside Diner, and living in her little small trailer behind it.
Mitch is a man who has a well deserved reputation with woman. He's upfront about not wanting a relationship. Once he is done, he's done, and there's no looking back. Paige, because of her mother and upbringing, has the attitude that men are not necessary.
Mitch is only in town for six weeks. When he meets Paige, he pursues her pretty hard. Every time, she turns him down. Mitch, a man not accustomed to be being told no, isn't exactly sure how to deal with that. Eventually, however, Paige gives into a short, no strings attached relationship with Mitch. The only problem is they each start to realize they want more than they agreed to. All He Ever Needed is the story of what happens when two people actually find the one person they truly need.
I LOVE watching guys fall and none fell harder or faster than Mitch “I’m not going to call or text you” Kowalski. The book even brought tears to my eyes.
Posted April 1, 2013
Thanks to the publisher, Carina Press, and NetGalley for the chance to read this!
Ms. Stacey has a hit on her hands with this captivating series. Every book seems better than the last; except Kevin, hero from Undeniably Yours, is still my favorite Kowalski – so far at least. This installment is intensely satisfying. I enjoyed the gut-wrenchingly emotional turmoil just as much as the humorous banter -- it won't soon be forgotten. If you enjoy small town contemporary romances then this series is a must read.
All He Ever Needed is the fourth in this series and features Mitch Kowalski. Mitch loves his nomadic lifestyle, living of out of suitcase, traveling from jobsite-to-jobsite and town-to-town without attachments. He returns home to help his injured brother, Josh, with the family lodge while in between jobs. He regrets that his reputation in Whitford is still based on transgressions committed during his younger days; being known as a ladies’ man, charmer, and troublemaker might have been great when he was a teenager but, now he is a respectable business owner. The moment Mitch entered the café he discovers he’s instantly intrigued by the waitress. He decides a six-week fling is just what he needs to make this brief trip home tolerable. It’s a good thing he loves a challenge…because Paige Sullivan isn’t interesting in dating.
Donna, Paige’s mother, moved them around never staying in one place very long. Paige is determined to not end up like her mother; chasing one man after another, suppressing her own needs to fit the man of the moment. So Paige lives by the motto that “Men are a luxury, not a necessity.” Paige nomadic lifestyle came to a dramatic halt the day her car broke down in Whitford. Now, two-years-later, the very independent Paige has deep-roots in the community; as the proud owner of the Trailside Diner she has a home – she is set in her ways...never even been tempted to compromise. However, when Mitch blows into her diner and suggest they hookup, no string attached, while he’s in town she thinks it a great way to work off some tension.
Posted January 9, 2014
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Posted October 23, 2012
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