The Red Diaryby Toni Blake
The Red Diary, an erotic tale from rising romance star Toni Blake, takes readers on a sensual adventure in a story of seductive retribution.
Lauren Ash keeps a private journal filled with her deepest, most intimate sexual fantasies... When house painter Nick Armstrong finds it, he plans to use the red-hot content to break Lauren’s heart—a/p>/em>
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The Red Diary, an erotic tale from rising romance star Toni Blake, takes readers on a sensual adventure in a story of seductive retribution.
Lauren Ash keeps a private journal filled with her deepest, most intimate sexual fantasies... When house painter Nick Armstrong finds it, he plans to use the red-hot content to break Lauren’s heart—a proper revenge for the wrongs his family suffered at the hands of Lauren’s father so many years ago.
Racy and fun, intimate and touching, The Red Diary features rich, compelling characters and a suspenseful, passionate escapade that you won’t want to put down.
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The Red Diary
By Toni Blake
Warner ForeverCopyright © 2004 Toni Herzog
All right reserved.
"You're empty. Let me get you another." His fingers covered hers on the stem of the wineglass.
She let go, leaving it in his possession. "No thanks. I have to drive."
Chad tilted his head and flashed a perfect pickup smile. The blond, tan lifeguard was God's gift to women, but his gaze held a hint of used car salesman, and his touch felt too familiar. "I'd be happy to take you home. What are you drinking?"
Now that Lauren thought about it, everything about this night seemed too familiar, yet she forced herself to smile back anyway. "Nothing. I'm drinking nothing. Thanks, but excuse me."
It was time to go, before her own life swallowed her whole.
In the next room, her best friend, Carolyn Kraus, swayed to a seductive song as a man's hands roamed her slender curves from behind. Carolyn's auburn hair fell about her face when she turned her head to welcome his slow, rhythmic kiss, and Lauren's chest tightened. Then her gaze narrowed on the low V-cut of Carolyn's fitted velvet pants, where three blue dolphins swam in a circle around her belly button. Lauren had heard at least a dozen men say it was the sexiest tattoo they'd ever seen.
She'd been tempted to get a tattoo of her own-before remembering she thought sexiness came from the inside and that she didn't necessarily want to be sexy for the whole world anyway. She didn't want to be sexy for the countless Chads who flitted in and out of her life. And because the Chads seemed to be the only men who entered her life, she supposed she didn't really want to be sexy for anyone.
Carolyn's dance partner was another blond surfer type, this one sporting a ponytail and a swarthy I-live-in-the-sun complexion. Lauren watched, along with everyone else, as one of his bronzed hands skimmed Carolyn's breast. The other flirted with the V of her pants.
Lauren turned abruptly-she'd intended to say good-bye to Carolyn, but now abandoned the idea. She nearly collided with a handsome guy in a business suit, his tie undone. His eyes glimmered a bit too much, especially when his hand closed around her wrist. "Wanna dance?"
"No thanks," she said firmly, pulling away. Stopping in the front room to retrieve her purse from beneath a couple making out on the couch, she made a beeline for the door and didn't look back. This was her life. And she hated it.
Poor little rich girl. She smiled wryly to herself, dismayed at how very well she embodied that particular concept. Great, I've become a cliche. But that didn't change the fact that money couldn't buy happiness.
Moments later, she sat behind the wheel of her silver Z4, the headlights carving a path through the darkness on a road that edged the Gulf Coast. The Sun Coast, tourists called the shore that ran from north of Clearwater Beach down past St. Petersburg, but right now all Lauren could see was a bright sliver of moon, and the taillights of the car in front of her, preventing her from going as fast as she wanted. Still, the fresh salt air cooled her face, and the breeze whipping through her hair delivered a sense of freedom. At least for right now she was free of her life, free of the night.
No more parties with Carolyn, she lectured herself.
Of course, she made this vow all the time, but Carolyn always prodded her. "It'll be fun. What better do you have to do, sit behind that desk and work all night?" Carolyn was her best friend, but over the years they'd grown so different from each other.
There were two kinds of women: those who could have meaningless sex with countless men and consider it casual fun, and those who could not. Carolyn could, and Lauren supposed it was probably nice to be so free, so much like a guy-but it also embarrassed her when people assumed best friends had everything in common.
Lauren definitively fell into the "could not" group. She'd slept with only three men in her twenty-seven years-each of whom she'd been in love with, and each of whom had left her heartbroken. Add to that a number of other relationships that had ended painfully, even without sex involved, and slowly but surely, she was getting wiser. Every time another guy with sexy eyes and a seductive smile crushed her heart a little flatter, she understood the injustices of life and love a bit more. In those moments, she longed to be like Carolyn, longed to have the ability to separate sex and emotion-but her soul wouldn't let her. One kiss was all it ever took. Either it felt wrong and she knew immediately that nothing more could happen, or it felt so deliciously right she'd be lost to the guy, that quickly, with no hope of coming back up for air-until it was over.
Turning left off the bridge that led from Sand Key to Clearwater Beach, she shifted her gaze from the dark, sparkling water to the couples and families dotting the sidewalks beneath the streetlamps. A summer evening on the south end of Clearwater Beach meant ice-cream cones and hand-holding. Watching made her lonely.
Exiting the roundabout onto the causeway, she pressed down on the gas for that blessed sense of freedom again, and the warm tropical wind enveloped her. No more parties with Carolyn, she repeated inside. No more of these hungry-eyed guys who think if you wear form-fitting clothing you're ready to play mattress tag. She meant it. She was done dealing with those jerks, once and for all.
Yet it would be hard to escape, because it wasn't just Carolyn's crowd who made her feel so awkward and sensitive. Lauren's own father dated women her age and expected her to think it was normal. And although she and her dad never discussed sex (thank God), if she asked him, he'd probably guess she slept around a lot and would think that was normal, too. And she might be able to stop going to parties with Carolyn, but what about her father's business parties? Or the parties his partner, Phil, constantly threw? As a high-ranking employee at Ash Builders, she had certain obligations, whether she liked it or not. Her life was one big pseudo-Hollywood bash.
After taking a left through downtown Clearwater, she soon traveled the palm-lined boulevard that would lead her home, the bay once again shimmering in the dark alongside the road. Closing the garage door behind her minutes later, she entered the house to find Isadora stretched across her pink velvet pillow on the white sofa. "Hey, Izzy," she cooed, reaching down to scratch the snowy Angora under her chin. But Isadora only shifted in sleep, seeming to say, Leave me alone. So she couldn't even depend on her own cat to keep her company in her time of need. "Well, pooh on you."
Glad to be in the cozy safety of her own home, she headed upstairs, then quickly showered off the smell of smoke. After combing through her wet hair, she slipped into a jade green chemise that suddenly struck her as far too alluring for a woman sleeping alone, but she liked the feel of silk next to her skin.
Venturing to her office, she settled in the soft leather chair behind her desk, checked her e-mail, then turned off the computer, glad no big accounting crises had arisen at Ash Builders since that afternoon. She was just about to flick off the lamp when she caught a glimpse of a satiny red book peeking from between a quarterly report and a ten-pound dictionary on her bookshelf across the room.
It was her sex journal.
Not that she'd had sex in a while-in fact, it had been two years since she'd broken up with Daniel, the last man she'd made love to. Maybe that was why she needed a sex journal.
She kept it in her office to prevent any prying eyes, like Carolyn's, from curiously snatching it up to see what was inside. The office was her own private domain; rarely did the need occur for anyone but her to be in the room.
Although she normally thought the book blended better with its Surroundings-tonight, for some reason, the red spine leapt out at her.
She chuckled cynically and shook her head. If people only knew; the irony was too rich. The girl they assumed was a bad girl was really a good girl, but the good girl had a dark side. A side no one else saw. A side that wished she could be like Carolyn-almost.
Yet she needed so much more than Carolyn when it came to sex. She needed the after part. Without it, the rest was nothing.
She recorded her sexual fantasies in the red book, though she hardly knew why. Moments like this, when the idea of sex practically repulsed her, writing down her fantasies felt almost dirty, immature.
But maybe it was just a reminder that she had fantasies, that she was a healthy, red-blooded woman, not just this person who ran from every sexual situation she encountered lately.
Or maybe it was because she dreamed of finding a man who could make every word she wrote feel good and right, instead of merely risque.
Sighing, she padded to the shelf and reached for the book. She didn't open it, merely ran her hand over the smooth cover. The deepest, darkest part of her heart lay hidden in this book, her most intimate desires. It was the one secret she kept from the entire world; not another living soul knew about it.
Maybe that was why she had the journal. Because no one else knew. Maybe she just needed to acknowledge that this part of her existed.
Returning the book to its place, Lauren turned off the lamp and headed for bed, still feeling quite alone in a world where people probably thought she had it all.
Nick simultaneously checked the clock on his dashboard, shoved the last bite of a cruller into his mouth, and flipped on his turn signal. After swinging his van onto Bayview, he washed down the cruller with the final drink of orange juice from the carton he'd grabbed at the 7-Eleven. The Stone Temple Pilots sang "Sour Girl" on his radio, turned down low; he generally liked his music loud, but not this early in the morning. He figured subtle changes like that were the first signs of getting old. At thirty-two, some days he felt all of nineteen, and other days he felt more like a man approaching seventy. Today, he sensed both ends of the spectrum encroaching.
After leaving the mansion-lined boulevard that ran along the bay, the air coming through his open window changed, thickened. It got hot early this time of year. But if he was honest, that probably wasn't the only reason he was starting to sweat a little.
Something tightened in his chest when the Ash mansion came into view. Henry's house. He hadn't seen the man up close in twenty years and had barely known him then, but that was how he thought of him, as Henry.
Lauren Ash's house sat next door to Henry's, on what Nick thought of as the Ash Estate. It wasn't as opulent as her father's, but five times larger than any home his family had ever lived in, a scaled-down version of her father's Greek temple stucco. He recalled hearing the story from other crew workers a few years back-she'd decided she wanted a place of her own, so Daddy had built his little princess her own mini-mansion complete with a small fountain in front. He grimaced, realizing his own sense of size was getting distorted. The fountain was small compared to the one in front of Henry's place, but it would do any city park proud.
The van's brakes squeaked lightly as he slowed to a stop before her house, separated from Henry's colossal palace by a large stucco wall. They'd saved a couple of enormous live oaks in front when they'd built, then sprinkled the yard with a few palm and banana trees, adding color with tall snapdragons and bougainvillea.
He couldn't help thinking it was the type of house Davy would notice-the same way Davy would notice a palm tree that had been bent by hurricane winds or a pelican diving for fish in the ocean. They were things Nick often no longer saw. Davy, though, still saw everything.
Well, Nick thought as he pulled into her pale brick driveway, he hoped the Princess of Ash Builders was awake. He knew she worked at home and probably slept in, but he started work at seven and didn't change his schedule for anyone, not even the boss's daughter.
This was just another job, so he wasn't sure why he suddenly felt twisted up inside. Although when the opportunity to work at the princess's house had presented itself, he'd accepted it while remembering all the Ash family had taken from his family. Maybe the truth was that he wanted, even needed, to look inside her world. He needed to see what could've been his, should've been his. What should've also been Davy's and Elaine's.
Just another job. Right.
Perhaps such immature aches were what had him feeling nineteen this morning, yet the old man inside him couldn't let it go. He'd seen too much and felt too much and knew how unfair the world could be.
In ways, life was mostly settled for his family now, but scars had a way of opening up sometimes when you least expected it. And when he thought of the Ash family, an all-too-familiar fire gathered in his gut. It was the same fire that had forced him to stick up for Davy in the schoolyard when they were young, the same that had welled in him when his father would belittle Elaine, the same that had taught Nick to use his fists.
It was a more controlled fire, now, though-he'd worked hard learning to control it. So it was time to put those old feelings away and do what he'd come here to do. Paint her house. That was all. Well, and maybe look at her life a little. Just to see what his life would have been like.
No big deal, he told himself.
Yet somehow he couldn't extinguish the slow burn inside him when he realized he was standing on the doorstep of the future he'd lost.
The door chime sounded just as Lauren reached to turn on the water in the shower. "Damn it," she muttered. "If I've told Phil once, I've told him a thousand times ..." Not to show up at my door at the crack of dawn with a pile of invoices. She liked Phil, but since he was her father's business partner, as well as company treasurer and production manager, she often saw more of him than she particularly enjoyed. He was the consummate company man, always putting Ash Builders above all things-including being considerate enough to wait for normal business hours before he started bugging her.
She stopped the water with an annoyed flick of her wrist, then threw her chemise back on before grabbing a beige kimono from a hook inside her walk-in closet. Cinching it at the waist as she descended the stairs, she rolled her eyes when the doorbell rang again, twice. So he was irritated, was he? Well, she could tell him a thing or two about irritation. She yanked open one of the front double doors and said, "Look-"
Oh God. It wasn't Phil.
Excerpted from The Red Diary by Toni Blake Copyright © 2004 by Toni Herzog. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Meet the Author
USA Today bestselling author Toni Blake's love of writing began when she won an essay contest in the fifth grade. Soon after, she penned her first novel—nineteen notebook pages long. Since then, Toni has become a RITA®-nominated author of more than twenty contemporary romance novels, her books have received the National Readers Choice Award and the Bookseller's Best Award, and her work has been excerpted in Cosmo. Toni lives in the Midwest and enjoys traveling, crafts, and spending time outdoors.
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## I enjoyed reading this book. I adored the heroine. She made this book special. The hero not so much. Do I think he was an ass most of the time? Yep. Do I think she should've dumped this guy? Yep. However, if he wasn't flawed, there'd be no book. He grew on me in the end. Definitely worth reading. BTW, I like detailed reviews incase I need to know more about a book. If the previous reviewer doesn't want details, skip the longer reviews (duh).
The Red Diary was a good book. I liked the story. The characters were great. I liked the story around The Red Diary. It was a book that you did not want to stop reading. I wish there were more books like this one. I highly recommend this book if you like a good love story.
I loved this book. very well written. easy read with likeable characters!
I gave this 5 stars the story is wonderfully done and a love story with many twists and turns
This book starts out very slow & doesn't pick up until close to the end. I felt like I was forcing myself to get through the book. Can't say this will make my list of GReat books.
Thank god this book was only .99 because it sucked. The ending was horrible and the fantasy parts were something out of a bad romance, oh wait it was a bad romance. Would not recommend this to anyone. Even if this was a free book i wouldn't have wasted my time. The writer could have done so much better with the actual story line but decided itto make it a chessy romance instead.
Its an alright book not bad
This a great novel. Perfectly written. It is a true romantic book. I love it so much. This is not a waste at all. Now stop thinking about and press buy and then conferm!
Love it.....butt then again love all her book!!! Some f the best emotions come with reading this heart warningly sexy. Loved every thing about this book! Please write another soon....
This is a great book that I couldn't put down. I have read it twice since. Perfect characters. Written with such passion and emotion. I have recommended it to all my friends.
Toni Blake makes you keep coming back wanting more. This is the first book of her's that I've read. I can't wait to read more of her books and I look forward to seeing her name on many more books.
Loved it! Lots of sensuality with terrific characters and plenty of emotion. I'll be watching for Toni Blake's next book!
I loved The Red Diary. Lauren's and Nick's emotional journey to heal and then fall in love captivated me from the very beginning. What terrific characters brought together in a unique way. The emotional and sensual connection between the characters is vibrant and memorable. They touch the heart and soul. I can't wait for Toni's next book.
Reading THE RED DIARY is like taking a peek into every woman's fantasies--and sharing the view with a dark hero who's man enough to make every fantasy come true!
The Red Diary is marketed as an erotic tale, and there are very steamy sex scenes, but there is so much more to this book than just erotica. It is a very well written story filled with revenge plots, domestic violence, addiction, and romance. It’s really cold here in Wisconsin, so it was a treat reading a book where people are enjoying their pools and eating outside. One of the ways I judge a romance is if I cry, and this one did have me shedding some tears at the end. That’s a good thing. While the plot, at times, may be predictable, I was easily able to overlook it because the two main characters have so many dimensions. Lauren and Nick were constantly changing during the book, and they were helping each other to do so. Just like any good couple should do for each other. It was wonderful to see Nick’s siblings change as well, going from people who stay in their own small world, dealing with their alcoholic father, to starting relationships with other people. When it came to Lauren’s friends, I didn’t enjoy them as much, and didn’t feel as if they added much to the story. They were constantly partying and having one night stands. Lauren, herself, didn’t even want to hang out with them. Her best friend, Caroline, does grow up a bit at the end, and I am wondering if Toni Blake will be writing a story about Caroline in the future. Now for the sex scenes themselves; I really enjoyed the technique Blake used to write them. Having Lauren write her fantasies in the diary enabled the author to write more than just a sex scene. The scenes themselves were able to incorporate lush scenery and more emotion, instead of what body parts do during sex. But there were regular sex scenes too, and they were written just as well. Some were really hot, while others were more sensual. It was just interesting to see the difference between the two ways of writing. All in all, a very enjoyable read, and I'm looking forward to trying another book by Blake. From what I've read, The Coral Cove series is supposed to be really good, so perhaps, I'll start there.
Love this book, once I finished this book I read many more from this author!! Got to say I love her :)
Nice escape and sexy romance. Fun time waster!
I read so many books, I only rate them on my list as good, etc. Unless it is a fantastic book, I don't even remember the story unless I start reading it again. Sorry
Book is amazing. A good read. Reccomend it. P.s. Gage and Cam no nook s.e.x.. thanks.
18 pages or did my Nook not get everything. Wish Nook would publish pages not KB.
Really enjoyed the story
Not just about sex but incorporates touchy issues that some can relate to. It was a pleasure reading this novel!