The Secret Seduction

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Lily Madsen promised herself that she would never again live up to her reputation as the 'Ice Princess' of Holly Springs.

To prove it, she's got a list of goals that are decidedly un-prissy-- not to mention a certain bet Lily's made with some of her friends that says this virgin can seduce a visiting TV star who's in town for only a week. All Lily needs is a little help from her friend Fletcher Hart who just happens to be an animal consultant ...

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Lily Madsen promised herself that she would never again live up to her reputation as the 'Ice Princess' of Holly Springs.

To prove it, she's got a list of goals that are decidedly un-prissy-- not to mention a certain bet Lily's made with some of her friends that says this virgin can seduce a visiting TV star who's in town for only a week. All Lily needs is a little help from her friend Fletcher Hart who just happens to be an animal consultant for the TV show. She needs him to get her on the set.

Fletcher will be damned if he's going to let Lily throw herself at some Hollywood heavy-- even if it means placing a wager of his own. The bet? That he can steer Lily away from the arrogant TV star and straight into his arms!

But every wager comes with a price. The question is, are Lily and Fletcher prepared for the consequences?

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780373750269
  • Publisher: Harlequin
  • Publication date: 6/1/2004
  • Series: Harlequin American Romance Series, #1022
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 4.14 (w) x 6.66 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Cathy Gillen Thacker is a full-time wife, mother and author who began writing stories for her own amusement during "nap time" when her children were toddlers. Twenty years and more than fifty published novels later, Cathy is almost as well-known for her witty romantic comedies and warm, family stories as she is for her ability to get grass stains and red clay out of almost anything, her triple layer brownies, and her knack for knowing what her husband and children are up to almost before they do! When writing, Cathy's greatest goal is to entertain and uplift. "To give people the power and courage to dream." Cathy's books have made numerous appearances on bestseller lists and are now published in 17 languages and 35 countries around the world. She says the most satisfying aspect of being a writer is hearing from her fans. "I love hearing from readers. Knowing just one person really enjoyed a book makes all the hard work seem worthwhile."

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Read an Excerpt

Honestly, Lily Madsen thought as she watched the disheveled "cowboy" climb down from the truck, that man in the snug-fitting jeans, chambray shirt and boots was enough to take your breath away. Or he would have been, she amended, if he hadn't been Fletcher Hart. The most reckless and restless of Helen Hart's five sons, the thirty-year-old Fletcher had a reputation for loving and leaving women and never committing to much of anything—save his thriving Holly Springs, North Carolina, vet practice—for long.
"Why are you being so all-fired difficult?" Lily glared at him and continued the conversation the two of them had started before Fletcher had cut it short and headed off on an emergency call to a nearby farm. "All I am asking for is a simple introduction to Carson McRue. I'll take it the rest of the way."
"I'm sure you will." Fletcher slanted her a deeply cynical look, followed it with a way too knowing half smile, then strode toward the back door of the clinic, all confident indomitable male. "The answer is still no, Lily."
Simmering with a mixture of resentment, anger and another emotion she couldn't quite identify, Lily followed Fletcher into the building, aware that unlike the building, which smelled quite antiseptic, he smelled as if he had been rolling around in the back of a barn. And perhaps he had been, she thought, noting the sweat stains on his shirt, the mud clinging to his backside, knees, shoulders and chest.
Oblivious to her scrutiny of him, he strode purposefully into a glass-walled room. On the other side of the partition was an assortment of cats and dogs in metal cages. All appeared to be recovering from operations or illness andwere sleeping or resting drowsily. On their side of the glass wall, there was another large crate with a dog inside who did not appear to have had surgery.
Lily watched as Fletcher hunkered down beside the crate and peered in. To her frustration, he seemed a lot more interested in his canine patient, than what she had to say to him. "Just what is your objection to my meeting the man anyway?" she demanded with all the authority she could muster, given the five years' difference in their ages.
Fletcher paused to give a comforting pat to the ailing yellow lab, who looked up at him with big sad eyes, before straightening once again. "Besides the fact that he's an egotistical TV star who doesn't care about anyone but himself, you mean?" Fletcher challenged.
Lily huffed her exasperation and folded her arms in front of her, trying all the while not to notice how soft and touchable Fletcher's shaggy honey-brown hair was, how sexy his golden-brown eyes. You would think the way Fletcher acted that he was the star of a hit TV show, instead of a local vet who was—as always—in need of a haircut. Just because he had a masculine chiseled face, with the don't-mess-with-me Hart jaw, expressive, kissable lips, a strong nose and well-defined cheekbones, did not mean that she had to swoon at his feet. And the same went for his powerful, six-foot-one frame, with those broad shoulders, impossibly solid chest, lean waist and long, muscular legs.
"You don't know that for sure," she retorted defensively, privately hoping it wasn't true. "Just because Carson McRue is rich and famous—"
Fletcher headed up the stairs that led to his apartment on the second floor, unbuttoning his filthy shirt as he went. Lily was right behind him. "Let's just cut the bull, shall we?"
"I don't—"
He stopped at the top of the stairs and stripped off his shirt, leaving Lily with a bird's-eye view of lots of satiny smooth male skin, a T-shaped mat of goldenbrown hair, six-pack abs and a belly button so sexy it was to die for. With effort, she dragged her glance away from his hip-hugging jeans and American Veterinary Medical Association belt buckle, before she could really give in to temptation and slide her glance lower to see what was behind that tightly shut zipper.
Oblivious to the licentious direction of her thoughts, Fletcher continued mocking her with thinly veiled contempt. "I know about the bet you made with all your friends. Okay, Lily? Everyone in town does."
While Fletcher watched, embarrassed color crept to her cheeks. Lily gulped her dismay. She never should have indulged in such bold talk at her birthday party last week. But then she never should have let her friends talk her into having two margaritas with her enchiladas, either. Everyone knew she couldn't hold her liquor. The closest she had ever gotten to drinking was the smidgen of crème de menthe her grandmother had let them have in their milk every Christmas Eve.
Alcohol had been one of many things her beloved grandmother Rose had not approved. And knowing how badly her own parents had disappointed Grandmother Rose, Lily had grown up never wanting to similarly let her down.
Forcing herself to meet Fletcher's boldly assessing gaze head-on, Lily demanded archly, "Who told you—?" And more to the point, how much exactly did he know about what she had sworn she would do to win her wager?
"—That you've promised when Carson McRue's private jet leaves Carolina, you're going to be on it?" Fletcher picked up where Lily left off. "Well, let's see. There's my sister, Janey. My brother Joe's wife, Emma. Hannah Reid, over at Classic Car Auto Repair. My cousin Susan Hart. And everyone else who heard you swear that you could get a hot date with the dim bulb in just one week."
Fletcher Hart knew everything, all right. Except of course what had prompted Lily to make such an unlikely, hedonistic boast in the first place. She pushed her rebuttal through gritted teeth. "Carson McRue is not a dim bulb. Or an egotistical star."
That cynical smile again. "And how would you know this?" Fletcher challenged as he unlocked the door and strode into his apartment, past the messy living room, kitchen and bedroom, to the bathroom at the rear.
Lily had the choice of following, or cooling her heels. She knew what he would have preferred, and—feeling stubbornly contrary—did the exact opposite. Pulse racing, she leaned against the hallway wall with her back to the open bathroom door and continued their conversation as nonchalantly as if every single day she did things this intimate with men she barely knew. "I know because I've watched his TV show every week for the last five years." The action-adventure show about an easygoing Hollywood private eye had been the one bright spot in many a stressful week. Lily had watched the highly entertaining program in hospital rooms and waiting rooms, as well as at home. And it had never failed to make her forget her problems, at least temporarily. Right now she needed to forget her problems. Besides, if she won her bet with the girls, they all owed her a day at the spa. If she lost and they won, well, Lily didn't want to think about what she would have to do then. Especially since Fletcher didn't seem to know about the price she would have to pay, either. Otherwise she was sure he would have already rudely brought it up.
Fletcher kicked off one boot, then the other. "Carson McRue plays a character, Lily. What you see on TV is all an act, albeit a highly polished one."
"I know that," Lily retorted drolly as she heard a zip and a whoosh of fabric…and was that the shower starting? Telling herself she was not going to see Fletcher naked, no matter how brazenly he was behaving, she closed her eyes and rubbed at the tense spot just above her nose.
"But no one who isn't that nice could actually pretend to be that caring and compassionate." At least Lily hoped that was the case. Otherwise, her goose was cooked. She would never be able to live down this drunken boast. Never be able to get up the nerve to do what she had to do to make good on her lost wager…
"Don't count on it," Fletcher argued right back. "And anyway, it doesn't matter." The shower curtain opened and closed. Water pelted in an entirely different rhythm and the aroma of soap and shampoo and…man…wafted out on the steamy air as Fletcher scrubbed himself clean.
"I'm still not introducing you to him." He spoke above the din of running water.
At Fletcher's stubbornness, it was all Lily could do not to stomp her foot. "But he and the rest of the show's cast and crew will be here tomorrow," she protested hotly as he shut the water off, pulled open the shower curtain with a telltale whoosh and ripped a towel off the rack with equal carelessness. "And you're the only one in town who has met him."
Six heavy male footsteps later, Fletcher was standing in the hall. Knowing she would be a coward if she didn't look, Lily opened her eyes. Fletcher was standing there, regarding her curiously and unabashedly. He had a towel slung low around his waist. He was using another on his hair. And, she noticed disconcertingly, he looked every bit as deliciously sexy wet as he did dry.
"I found the guy a horse to ride while he's here. That's it. And all that required was a phone call and video-conference," Fletcher told Lily in disdain.
That was far more contact than anyone else in town had had, Lily thought enviously. Why didn't anything that exciting ever happen to her? And if it didn't, how was she ever going to leave her Ice Princess of Holly Springs reputation far behind?
"You're also going to be working at the set, as the animal-rights consultant." She diligently made her case for him to help her.
Fletcher shrugged his broad shoulders, and Lily's pulse picked up as she saw the loosely knotted towel around his waist slip a little bit.
Fletcher frowned, unimpressed. "It's a glorified title. I only took the position because of the hefty paycheck attached to it. It doesn't mean I really have any say in what goes on there. Unless of course they try to do some stunt that would actually harm any of the animals on the set. And right now, the only animal I know about is the horse Carson McRue will be riding when he takes off after the bad guys."
"Fine. Whatever." Lily did not care if Fletcher ended up being bored out of his mind. "The point is, the film crew is only going to be here for one week and you've got entrée. And I do have a bet going…"
Fletcher met her eyes, this time in all seriousness. "One that is bound to guarantee you getting hurt."
Lily's spine stiffened. She wished like heck that he would behave more modestly or put some clothes on. Not that she could actually see anything she shouldn't be seeing…or wouldn't see if he were, say, swimming.
"You don't know that," she retorted defensively in an attempt to get her mind off of what was under that towel. Was that as gloriously male and wonderfully attractive as the rest of him? And how would she—the woman of literally no worldly experience—know anyway, even if she were to see? She'd never encountered a naked man! Except on the big screen and in the movies she'd seen. And it was always a rear view, never ever the front.
"Don't I?" Fletcher let go of the towel he had looped around his neck. He flattened a hand on the wall next to her and leaned in close, deliberately invading her space. "Let's recap for a moment here, shall we?" he said softly. "Small-town girl—that would be you—who has never been out of Holly Springs, except for that one half semester she went to college in Winston-Salem before returning to finish up her studies at nearby N.C.
State, tries to hook up with a Hollywood hunk who has a reputation for breaking hearts all over the world."
Lily did not need reminding how stifling her life to date had been. "First of all, Fletcher," she retorted, lifting her chin, "it was never my decision to live my whole life in North Carolina or live at home while I finished my business degree. But I had no choice. My grandmother was ill—and someone had to be there to drive her to medical appointments and see her through the surgeries, radiation and chemotherapy treatments." Lily gulped around the sudden tightness in her throat. "So I did it, and furthermore—" her voice quavered even more as she thought about the heartbreak of that awful time "—I was glad to do it."
Fletcher's eyes softened and he touched a gentle hand to her quivering chin. "I know that," he told her compassionately. "I'm sorry you lost her. You know how much I cared about Grandmother Rose. And the pets she had over the years."
Lily did know. An animal lover from birth, Fletcher knew everyone in town, and their pets. His future as a veterinarian had seemed as predetermined as Lily's, who had been tapped to continue the florist business that had been in the Madsen family for generations. The difference being Fletcher had gone into his career by choice. Lily had been forced into hers by duty. And at twentyfive, after years of sacrifice, she was getting pretty darned tired of doing what everyone else felt she should.
"Which is why, Lily, I and everyone else in this town who care about you do not want to see you make a fool out of yourself over an arrogant thespian."
"Don't you think that should be my choice?" Lily tapped him on the chest before she could think—then withdrew her index finger from that warm, hard chest and leaned back as far as she could into the wall.
Fletcher's eyes grew dark, as he stayed right where he was. "Not if you're going to make the wrong decision, no," he said flatly. "I don't."
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 5, 2004

    A fine romance

    In Holly Springs, North Carolina, Lily ¿Ice Princess¿ Madsen bets her friends that she will fly back to California in the private plane of TV star Larsen McRue. Knowing she should never drink, Lily knows she has only one way to accomplish her objective as she has never met the Larsen. She must persuade local vet Fletcher Hart, a friend of Larsen, to introduce her to the Hollywood star................................ Though she pleads with him that she must meet her favorite actor, Fletcher refuses to abet Lily on her scheme not just because he is concerned about her or his pal; instead he has desired Lily for several years. He informs her that the entire town is well aware of her wager and gambling on her success has become acute. He makes his own wager with his siblings and goes about melting the ice princess by courting her. However, he begins to realize that if he wins he could lose as he wants Lily for the next five decades or so............................... This amusing heated battle of the sexes will have readers laughing one moment and warmed up with the next scene. The story line is fun due to the antics of the lead couple whose wagers lead to love American style. Clearly aimed at humor, contemporary romance fans will take immense delight with this engrossing gender war......................... Harriet Klausner

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 13, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted November 14, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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