Kiss Me If You Can (Most Eligible Bachelor Series #1)by Carly Phillips
Sam Cooper ("Coop") has just become the most eligible bachelor in New York City. Now that he has foiled a jewelry-store robbery and has been rewarded with the ring of his choice, single women all over the city are fawning over the crime reporter. But Coop isn't interested in the admirers sending racy underwear his way. His attention is centered solely… See more details below
Sam Cooper ("Coop") has just become the most eligible bachelor in New York City. Now that he has foiled a jewelry-store robbery and has been rewarded with the ring of his choice, single women all over the city are fawning over the crime reporter. But Coop isn't interested in the admirers sending racy underwear his way. His attention is centered solely on Lexie Davis, the only woman in the city who claims not to be interested in his bachelor status.
Instead, free-spirited Lexie is interested in Coop's antique ring, and its—potentially scandalous—history in her family. But Coop is quickly becoming more than just her route to the ring. When his investigation starts to uncover the truth, will she trust her heart—and her family secrets—to this most eligible bachelor?
Read an Excerpt
Sam Cooper's stomach grumbled at the sight of the blue-and-yellow umbrellas shading his favorite hot dog stand from the blazing sun. Fresh from a boring press conference, where the mayor and police commissioner had announced the long-awaited wrap-up of a string of apartment burglaries on the Upper West Side, Coop had his digital recorder in one pocket and cash in another.
The aroma of New York's finest hot dog had his mouth watering. "Hey, Dom. How's business today?" he asked the owner.
"Can't complain. Busy lunch crowd. Slow now but it'll pickup again during the commute." The older man, tanned from his days outside, lifted the metal lid, revealing Coop's belated lunch. "The usual?"
Coop nodded. "The works. Actually make it two. I haven't eaten since breakfast."
He glanced at his watch. Nearly 3:00 p.m. Enough time for him to eat and get his story in before heading home for the day.
While Dom placed his hot dogs in their buns and began loading them up, Coop glanced around his city. On a hot August day like this one, few people wandered around outside. The smart ones hightailed it out of town, heading for the ritzy Hamptons or the Jersey Shore. Others holed up inside, with their AC blasting.
Coop's favorite hot dog stand was located on the corner of 47th Street and Park Avenue. A people watcher by nature—part of what led him to become a reporter, he supposed—Coop always studied the stores and buildings in the vicinity, and the people entering and exiting each.
As usual, the Vintage Jewelers caught his eye. Unlike most of the upscale stores in the area, it was rather ordinary. As if to compensate, the window changed often, rotating gaudy, elaborate pieces almost daily. Usually only women frequented the establishment—no big surprise—but today a man wearing a sweatshirt, hood over his head, stood inside.
"Strange," Coop muttered. The heat from the sun had him sweating in his shirt and the steam coming off the sidewalk blistered the soles of his shoes.
"Dogs are ready," Dom said, distracting Coop's attention.
But not before Coop caught sight of what looked like a gun in the man's hand. Coop's adrenaline kicked in and he focused on the store. There were two females behind the counter. If he barged in, he risked the guy shooting someone.
Inside the store, the man turned to leave.
Coop glanced at Dom. "Don't ask questions, just call 9-1-1," he said as he grabbed the metal lid off the cart and swerved back to face the store.
As the man exited, Coop acted on instinct. He stuck his foot out, tripping the guy before he could run. The man staggered but regained his balance and straightened up. Coop drew a deep breath and bashed the man in the head with the aluminum hot dog cover. His hood must have cushioned the blow or else the guy had a thick skull because he struggled to stand up a second time. Coop swung harder and the guy fell to the sidewalk, moaning in pain. The jewels spilled from his pocket onto the ground.
Before the other man could recover, Coop grabbed the gun from inside his sweatshirt and waited for the cops to arrive. His heart still beat hard, roaring in his ears as the sirens alerted him to the arrival of the police and the cops quickly relieved him. While one cuffed the criminal and hauled him into their car, another took Coop's statement.
As he replayed the events in his head, Coop was almost glad his torn rotator cuff had forced him to quit the police academy and he had a newfound respect for his father and older brother, both career policemen. Wouldn't they get a laugh when they heard about his exploits. They'd rib him but good for trying to do their job.
"Hey, Mac, are you finished grilling me?" From his years working the crime beat, he was on a first-name basis with many of the detectives and cops.
The other man nodded. "We know where to find you. Go home and take it easy. You've had a rough day."
Coop shook his head. "I'm fine. I'll be at the office if you need me." At the very least, he could make sure this story had the right spin.
He turned to leave when two women came running out of the jewelry store. "Wait," the older one called. "I wanted to thank you!"
Coop strode toward the petite brunette who would have been no match for the robber, with or without his gun.
"I'm so grateful to you. Normally my father would be in the store with me, but he's in Florida for the weekend. That man loaded up his sweatshirt with expensive items. You saved us a small fortune!"
Coop shifted from foot to foot, uncomfortable with her gratitude. "I was just in the right place at the right time."
She shook her head. "Don't be modest! Most people would have just walked away. I was in the store with my fifteen-year-old daughter, so I handed over the items because I didn't want her to get hurt.
You must come inside. I insist on giving you a reward for your heroic actions. I've already been to the bank, so I'm going to have to offer you jewelry instead."
He shook his head once more. "No reward necessary."
"Reward?" A female television reporter Sam recognized shoved a microphone between Sam and the shop owner's daughter. "Go on! I'd love to get the exclusive on this for tonight's five o'clock news!"
"You mean you'd mention our store by name?" The store owner's eyes lit up at the idea.
The reporter nodded. "We can even shoot inside as you give your savior his reward."
Coop groaned. He recognized the runaway train and fought to avoid the inevitable. "I can't accept a reward. Like I told her, I just happened to be in the right place at the right time."
The reporter smoothed her hair, straightened her shoulders and motioned to her camera crew. "Roll tape," she said, ignoring him.
"This is Carolina Martinez, reporting from the scene of a robbery in midtown Manhattan, with the reluctant hero, crime beat reporter Sam Cooper, and the grateful store owner who is just about to present him with a reward." She glanced at her crew and said, "Cut!" before turning back to the stunned store owner. "It's your show. What do you intend to give him?" Carolina asked.
Coop found himself dragged into the shop by the insistent reporter and the store owner's daughter, followed by the camera crew. He wanted to get the hell out of here, but the woman, whose name he learned was Anna Burnett, had placed a tray of antique jewelry in front of him. Meanwhile, Carolina and her crew taped everything, leaving Coop with no choice but to go along with Anna's plea that he choose an item for his trouble.
Coop scanned the tray, looking for something that appeared inexpensive and that he could take without guilt.
"How about this watch?" Anna raised the hammered gold men's timepiece, angled not for Coop but toward the camera.
Coop shook his head. "I couldn't. It looks too expensive and besides I don't wear jewelry."
"Then how about a necklace or a ring for your wife?" She lifted what appeared to be an emerald necklace, showing it off with a wide smile for the camera.
"Not married." Anymore. He forced a smile.
"Something for your girlfriend then!"
Before she could reach for something else, Coop chose the ugliest, most gaudy ring in the bunch, hoping it was also the least expensive. "I'll take this."
"I'm so glad you've accepted a memento for preventing our beloved store from being robbed. The ring is beautiful and there are many more lovely items at the Vintage Jewelers, located at 47th Street and Park Avenue." She swept the inside of the store with her hand, hamming it up as she took advantage of the free publicity.
Coop stifled a chuckle, if only because the damn cameras were still rolling. He waited for Carolina to yell, "Cut!"
Then Coop pocketed the ring, thanked Anna and Carolina, and got the hell out of the store before the intrepid reporter decided she wanted to interview him as well as humiliate him in front of the entire city.
A reporter by day and an aspiring novelist in his private time, even Coop couldn't have scripted anything like today.
As Coop walked into the newsroom, a round of applause greeted him, and his colleagues rose to their feet.
Coop frowned, waving away their whistles and comments, and headed for his desk. He lowered himself into his seat and leaned back, relaxing for the first time all day. He pulled the ring from his pocket and held the gaudy piece up to examine it more closely.
"You aren't going to see much in this dingy lighting." Amanda Nichols, the features editor at the paper, propped a hip on his desk. She leaned in for a better look at his ring and her long blonde hair fell in curls around her shoulders.
Coop liked Amanda. They'd had their moment, a brief fling after Coop's divorce, but there'd been no serious spark for either one of them. Luckily, she was the rare woman who could separate sex from friendship and they'd been able to remain on good terms ever since.
"It's ugly as sin, isn't it?" he asked.
"Let me see." Amanda held out her hand and he placed the ring in her palm.
Into glitz, glamour and shopping, she enjoyed material things. Clothing, jewelry, you name it—she knew its history.
She narrowed her gaze and peered inside the ring. "Ugly by today's standards, but by vintage ones, this is a collector's dream. It's Trifari. Look at the insignia." She drew his attention to the inside of the ring's shank, pointing with her long, painted nails. "You picked yourself a winner," she said, handing him back his reward.
"I didn't want something valuable. I wanted something I wouldn't feel guilty about taking," he said in frustration.
Amanda shrugged. "From what I heard, you saved the store owner a fortune. Don't feel bad. You can just give it to the special lady in your life." She not-so-subtly raised her gaze to meet his.
Coop cocked his head to one side. "Is that your way of asking if I'm seeing anyone?"
She grinned. "Actually, yes, it is. You work too hard. You're always pounding away at your computer."
Because he often pulled up his other work when he wasn't on deadline at the paper. Fiction writing was his real love, not that he shared that information with many people. Lately though, the creative juices had dried up, causing him many hours of staring at a blank screen, both here and at home.
"I'm not seeing anyone," he said, hoping she'd leave it at that.
"I worry about you. A girlfriend would add some balance to your life."
So much for her dropping the subject.
Coop rolled his eyes. "I have enough balance and there's no need to worry. I'm fine. Now if we could stay on track?" He shot her a wry look and placed the ring on his desk. "Since it's worth something, I guess I'll store it in a safe place."
"Okay, but you know what they say about all work and no play…"
"I play enough," he lied.
"If you say so." She pinned him with a look that told him she was onto him.
What could he say? Lately, there'd been no woman who'd captured his interest. But if he admitted as much to Amanda, she'd start setting him up with her friends, and he shuddered at the thought. Blind dates were bad enough. Well-meaning friends trying to matchmake were even worse. Coop had an ex-wife and a healthy respect for being more careful with the women he chose. He certainly wasn't lacking for bed partners, if that was all he needed.
"I do. Now I need to get back to work."
She shook her head and sighed. "Okay, then. Catch you later, hero." She winked and strode away, her hips swaying as she walked.
Coop turned to his computer.
Bringing up a Google search on the word Trifari, he spent a considerable amount of time researching until he finally found a photo of what looked like the ring he now had in his possession. To his surprise, it was part of a set that included a bracelet and necklace. Back in the 1950s the jewels had belonged to a wealthy family in Manhattan until they'd been stolen in a brazen robbery during a dinner party at the family home. The culprits had never been caught and the jewels had reportedly never been recovered.
Coop glanced at the ring on his desk. What the hell did he have in his possession? Did the jewelry store even know the value of the ring? How many times had it been passed on since the robbery over fifty years ago?
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