Sinful

Sinful

4.3 13
by Joan Johnston
     
 

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For readers of Linda Lael Miller and Susan Mallery comes New York Times bestselling author Joan Johnston’s sizzling contemporary Western romance, where power, money, and rivalries rule—and love is the best revenge.
 
WHILE HE SEEKS A HAVEN,
SHE SEARCHES FOR A PLACE TO CALL HOME
 
After a tragic

Overview

For readers of Linda Lael Miller and Susan Mallery comes New York Times bestselling author Joan Johnston’s sizzling contemporary Western romance, where power, money, and rivalries rule—and love is the best revenge.
 
WHILE HE SEEKS A HAVEN,
SHE SEARCHES FOR A PLACE TO CALL HOME
 
After a tragic accident leaves Delta sergeant Connor Flynn a widower, he faces the toughest fight of his life: battling his in-laws for custody of his two young children. To win he’ll need a make-believe bride to take care of the kids while he runs his Wyoming ranch. Who better than a woman he already knows and likes—his late wife’s best friend?
 
Ruthlessly forced from her home by her powerful father, King Grayhawk, Eve needs somewhere to go . . . and so does the herd of wild mustangs she’s rescued. Connor’s offer sounds like the answer to a prayer. But Eve has a guilty secret she’s guarded for years: She’s always been in love with Connor.
 
Now forced to live under the same roof as her heart’s desire, Eve must hide the love that has never died, while Connor vows to resist his growing need for a woman who was forbidden fruit during his marriage. Can two lonely people set adrift by fate and haunted by guilt find redemption in the healing embrace of love?

Praise for Sinful
 
“Romance steams up . . . in this strong contemporary trilogy opener. . . . [Joan] Johnston’s effortless storytelling propels the novel forward with plenty of emotional struggle and sizzling sex.”—Publishers Weekly
 
“Smart, sexy and satisfying . . . A tense, sensual and conflicted love story set against an epic family drama.”—Kirkus Reviews
 
“Johnston does a wonderful job of tugging on some emotional heartstrings while simultaneously developing a fiery passion. Connor and Eve are lovable characters who fight hard for their happily ever after.”—RT Book Reviews
 
“Johnston captivates with Sinful . . . There are plenty of subplots, family dysfunction, the feud, rescue horses, a ranch for vets, single parenthood . . . I could go on and on, but the emotion rules them all! Contemporary Western at its best!”—Bodice Rippers, Femme Fatales and Fantasy
 
“A wondrous story about love, family and commitment . . . Johnston makes it impossible to avoid getting caught up in this amazing family drama.”—Fresh Fiction
 
“Eve and Connor’s story was so emotional . . . If you need a story about having a second chance at finding that special someone, this book is perfect.”—Harlequin Junkie

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
02/09/2015
Romance steams up Jackson Hole, Wyo., in this strong contemporary trilogy opener. When Connor Flynn returns after his wife, Molly, dies in a car accident, Eve Grayhawk is reminded of her secret love for him. Unfortunately, their families are mortal enemies, and Molly was her best friend. Connor, who was serving in Afghanistan, has a hard time adapting to civilian life, and his children hardly remember him. Desperate, Connor turns to Eve to see whether she would be willing to live at his ranch and help take care of the kids. Sparks fly, but questions over custody force Eve and Connor to consider more serious legal commitment while they’re still figuring out their feelings and trying to withstand the pressures from their feuding families. Johnston’s effortless storytelling propels the novel forward with plenty of emotional struggle and sizzling sex. (May)
From the Publisher
Praise for Sinful
 
“Romance steams up . . . in this strong contemporary trilogy opener. . . . [Joan] Johnston’s effortless storytelling propels the novel forward with plenty of emotional struggle and sizzling sex.”—Publishers Weekly
 
“Smart, sexy and satisfying . . . A tense, sensual and conflicted love story set against an epic family drama.”—Kirkus Reviews
 
“Johnston does a wonderful job of tugging on some emotional heartstrings while simultaneously developing a fiery passion. Connor and Eve are lovable characters who fight hard for their happily ever after.”—RT Book Reviews
 
“Johnston captivates with Sinful . . . There are plenty of subplots, family dysfunction, the feud, rescue horses, a ranch for vets, single parenthood . . . I could go on and on, but the emotion rules them all! Contemporary Western at its best!”—Bodice Rippers, Femme Fatales and Fantasy
 
“A wondrous story about love, family and commitment . . . Johnston makes it impossible to avoid getting caught up in this amazing family drama.”—Fresh Fiction
 
“Eve and Connor’s story was so emotional . . . If you need a story about having a second chance at finding that special someone, this book is perfect.”—Harlequin Junkie
Kirkus Reviews
2015-02-05
Army vet Connor Flynn enlists the aid of his late wife's best friend, Eve (p.7), to help his children feel more secure, leading to an unexpected relationship with one of his wealthy family's sworn enemies.After losing his wife, Molly, in a tragic accident, Connor leaves his kids with her parents while he finishes his last tour, then comes home to a custody battle. Winning the case mainly due to Eve, Molly's best friend and the children's godmother, who testifies on his behalf, Connor is grateful to the woman who was willing to stand up for him, despite being the daughter of his father's worst enemy. The wealthy and powerful Flynns and Grayhawks have nursed a feud for years, so when Eve is willing to move into Connor's new home to help his kids feel more secure, he's even more humbled. But when a social worker expresses concern over Eve's single status, Connor proposes a pretend engagement that tumbleweeds into a real marriage, causing an uproar in both families. Eve has always had feelings for Connor, which she was never able to act on since she had inadvertently set him up with Molly. At first willing to do almost anything to help Molly's children, Eve begins to wonder if her marriage to Connor may be the path to a happiness they never dreamed possible, even with family tensions rising, her professional career as a wildlife photographer in question, and Connor's and Eve's fledgling but fruitful philanthropic efforts in jeopardy. Johnston creates some sizzling sexual and emotional tension in her contemporary Western, which launches a new series connected to her popular Bitter Creek Western historicals. A few details are threaded up a little too neatly in the end—especially a kind of blessing from beyond the grave from Molly—but overall, this is a smart, sexy and satisfying read. A tense, sensual and conflicted love story set against an epic family drama—worth a read for romance fans.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780804178662
Publisher:
Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
04/28/2015
Series:
Bitter Creek Series , #13
Edition description:
Reissue
Pages:
320
Sales rank:
247,264
Product dimensions:
4.10(w) x 6.90(h) x 1.00(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

Her name was Eve. Not Evelyn or Eveline or Evette. Just Eve. The day she was born, her father, King Grayhawk, took one look at her large blue eyes, soft blond curls, and bowed upper lip and whispered, “Eve.” Apparently, she reminded him of some woman he’d fallen in love with as a younger man. That Eve, he’d declared, was the only woman he had ever loved.

Those words, spoken as her mother lay recovering from labor, must have been the final insult, because Eve was still a babe in arms when her mom ran off with one of King’s cowhands. Eve had grown up with the knowledge that her birth had caused a terrible rift between her parents. That marital fracture had left her and her fraternal twin sisters, Taylor and Victoria, and their older stepsister, Leah, as motherless children.

Eve felt burdened by her name. It didn’t help that she shared it with the woman who’d tempted Adam to sin in the Garden of Eden. In high school she was teased and taunted as she began to acquire seductive curves. She was sure one of those pain-in-the-butt Flynn brothers had started it, but the other boys had quickly followed his lead.

“Show me an apple, and I’ll eat it,” a boy would say, “so long as you come along with it, Eve.” Or, “Too bad you ate that apple, Eve, or we’d all still be running around naked,” followed by a lurid grin.

She’d gotten pretty good at sending back zingers like, “If God had seen you naked, Buck, He might have decided He made a real mistake only taking out a rib.” But the constant innuendo made Eve’s teenage life miserable.

That was the least of the trouble those four awful Flynn brothers—Aiden, Brian, Connor, and Devon—had caused her and her sisters over the years.

From her father’s rants at supper, Eve had known he was feuding with Angus Flynn. It wasn’t until she was eight years old that she understood why. Angus’s older sister, Jane, had been King’s first wife, and Angus blamed King for his unhappy sister’s death from an overdose of barbiturates. Eve had no idea whether her father was innocent or not, but he was sorely tried by Angus’s efforts to blight his life.

The animosity should have remained between their fathers, but it had bled onto their children. Angus Flynn’s four sons were infamous around Jackson Hole for wreaking havoc and causing mischief. After their aunt Jane died, as though a switch had been flipped, the Flynn brothers began aiming all that tomfoolery toward Eve and her sisters. It didn’t take long before King’s Brats, who’d done their own share of troublemaking around Jackson Hole, were giving as good as they got from those wild Flynn boys.

Eve could remember vividly the year fourteen-year-old Leah’s blueberry pie had been mysteriously doused with salt at the Four-H competition. Her stepsister had retaliated by shaving the flank of fourteen-year-old Aiden’s Four-H calf so it looked like it had the mange.

Some of the mischief she and her sisters perpetrated was merely a nuisance. Like putting an ad in the paper for a cattle auction at the Flynn ranch, the Lucky 7, beginning at 6:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning, offering their prize bull for sale, when no such auction existed.

Eve had helped Taylor and Victoria punch a tiny hole in the gas tank of Brian’s truck, so that when he and Devon headed off to hunt deer in the mountains, where there was no cell phone reception, they’d ended up making a long, bitterly cold walk back to civilization.

The Flynns had retaliated by placing slices of bologna in a vulgar design on the hood of Taylor and Victoria’s cherry-red Jeep Laredo. The next morning, when her sisters pulled the deli meat off the hood, the preservatives in the bologna caused the top layer of paint to come off as well, leaving the distinct imprint of male genitalia.

It wouldn’t have been so bad if the pranks had remained physically harmless. They hadn’t. When Eve was a freshman in high school, the cinch of her saddle had been cut before a barrel race at a local rodeo, and she’d broken her arm when the saddle broke free. Eve could remember how enraged Leah was in the moments before the ambulance carted her away. The Flynn boys were competing at the same rodeo in calf roping. They should have known to check their cinches, but Eve supposed they hadn’t expected Leah to retaliate so quickly. When Aiden roped a calf his cinch broke—along with his leg.

The mischief escalated into attacks involving other people. Taylor’s and Victoria’s prom dates were kidnapped by a couple of boys wearing hoods, who tied them to a tree so they never showed up. The twins were devastated. The fallout afterward was even worse. The kidnapped boys made it clear that it wasn’t worth the trouble to date a Grayhawk when it meant putting up with all the horseshit being shoveled by those crazy Flynn boys.

Since Eve had lived in the same small town her whole life, the “harmless” high school prank involving her name had been a continuing source of irritation. Most of the kids who’d gone to high school with her still lived in Jackson, and there was always some jerk who couldn’t resist prodding her, hoping to get under her skin.

Like now.

Eve wasn’t looking to hook up or make waves. All she wanted to do was sit at the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar on the square in Jackson, along with the tourists who’d come to enjoy the last of the black-diamond ski season on the Grand Tetons, review the digital photographs she’d taken that day of the herd of wild mustangs she’d rescued, and enjoy her martini.

“Is that an apple martini, Eve?” a man called from behind her.

Eve turned to find Buck Madison, the former Jackson Broncs quarterback, grinning like an idiot at one of the pool tables in the center of the bar. Two of his former teammates stood shoulder to shoulder with him, giggling like teenage girls. All three were obviously drunk. She purposefully turned her attention back to the digital shot of the only colt in her herd. With any luck, Buck would give up and shut up.

Eve smiled as she studied the image of Midnight frolicking with his mother, his black mane and tail flying, his back arched, and all four hooves off the ground.

“You look good enough to tempt a man to sin, Eve.

Buck’s voice was loud in a bar that had suddenly become quiet. Eve shut off her camera and laid it on the bar as she dismounted the Western saddle on a stand—complete with stirrups—that served as a bar stool. She glanced at Buck in the mirror over the bar as she gathered her North Face fleece from where it hung off the saddle horn. She wasn’t going to get into a war of words with a drunk. It was a lose-lose proposition. She had one arm through her fleece when Buck stripped it back off, dangling it from his forefinger.

“Uh, uh, uh,” he said, wagging the finger holding the fleece. “I’m not done looking yet.”

She turned to confront Buck, her chin upthrust, her blue eyes shooting daggers of disdain. “I’m done being ogled. Give me my coat.”

She held out her hand and waited.

She felt a wave of resentment toward the Flynns, who’d started that whole Garden of Eden business in the first place. She couldn’t help the fact that she’d developed a lush female figure in high school. At twenty-six, she’d made peace with her body. There was no easy way to conceal her curves, so she didn’t try. But she did nothing to emphasize them, either.

She was dressed in a plaid western shirt that was belted into a pair of worn western jeans. She had on scuffed cowboy boots, but instead of a Stetson, she usually wore a faded navy-blue-and-orange Denver Broncos ball cap. She’d left the cap in her pickup, but her chin-length, straw-blond hair was tucked behind her ears to keep it out of her way.

“My coat?” she said.

As she reached for it, Buck pulled it away. “How about a kiss first?”

Eve had opened her mouth to retort when a brusque male voice said, “Give the lady her coat.”

Eve hadn’t heard anyone coming up behind her, which surprised her. She photographed wild animals in their natural habitat and prided herself on her awareness of her surroundings. In the wilderness, missing the slightest sound could result in being bitten by a rattler or attacked by a bear or mountain lion. She glanced over her shoulder and felt her heart skip a beat when she recognized her unlikely savior.

Connor Flynn.

Connor was third in line of the Flynn brothers, but he’d been at the top of the teenage troublemaking list. He was thirty now but, if anything, his reputation was worse. He’d done three tours as a Delta sergeant in Afghanistan before leaving the military with several medals to prove his heroism in battle.

He’d paid a high price for his long absences from home serving his country. A year ago his wife, Molly, who’d been Eve’s best friend, had died in a car accident while Connor was overseas. After the funeral, he’d agreed to let Molly’s parents take his kids into their home while he served the nine months left on his final tour of duty.

Now they were threatening to keep them.

Connor had ended up in a court battle to get his two-year-old son and four-year-old daughter back. So far he hadn’t been able to wrench them away from his late wife’s parents. They’d argued to a judge that Connor was a battle-weary soldier, a victim of post-traumatic stress, and therefore a threat to his children. According to all the psychological tests he’d been forced to endure to prove them wrong, he was fine. But seeing him now, Eve wondered for the very first time if Molly’s parents might not be completely off the mark.

Connor looked dangerous, his sapphire-blue eyes hooded, his cheeks and chin covered with at least a two-day-old beard, and a hank of his rough-cut, crow-wing-black hair resting on his scarred forehead. His lips had thinned to an ominous line.

If she’d been Buck, she would have handed over the coat in a heartbeat. But Buck wasn’t known for his smarts.

“Butt out!” Buck said. “This is between me and Eve.”

Without warning, Connor’s hand shot out and gripped Buck’s throat. Buck dropped the coat to protect his neck, but Connor didn’t let go. His inexorable grasp was slowly choking the big man to death. Even using both hands, Buck couldn’t get free.

Eve looked around the bar, expecting someone, anyone, to intervene. No one did. She wouldn’t have interfered except she knew that Connor might be turning the lock and throwing away the key where custody of his kids was concerned. She didn’t step in for Connor’s sake. Ordinarily she wouldn’t have thrown a glass of water to douse a Flynn on fire. But she cared very much about the future well-being of her dead friend’s children, who needed their father alive and well and out of jail.

Despite Connor’s long absences, Molly had been convinced that he would take good care of their children if anything ever happened to her. Eve owed it to her best friend to make sure Connor didn’t ruin his chance of becoming the wonderful father Molly had always believed he could be.

As carefully as if she were approaching a feral wolf, Eve laid her fingertips on Connor’s bare forearm, the one that led to the hand grasping Buck’s throat. She turned so she was looking into his narrowed eyes. “Connor,” she said in a quiet voice. “This won’t help. Let go.”

She watched his upper lip curl as though he was snarling while his gaze remained focused on the helpless man in his grasp.

“Think of the kids!” she said more urgently. “For their sake, let go. Please.”

He turned to look at her when she said “kids” and then seemed to hear the rest of her sentence. He looked at his hand and seemed surprised to discover that he was still choking Buck. Suddenly, he let go and took a step back.

Buck gasped a breath of air, and with the next breath croaked, “Molly’s parents are right. You should be in a cage!” Now that Buck was free, his two football buddies, each brandishing a pool cue, moved up to flank him.

Connor stood as though in a daze, rubbing his forehead where the scar from a war wound loomed white against his tanned skin. Eve realized that if Connor didn’t leave in a hurry, there was likely to be a free-for-all. She grabbed her fleece from the floor and her camera from the bar, gripped Connor’s hand, and pulled him out the door after her.

She headed away from the bar in case the three drunks decided to follow them outside into the frosty March evening. She hadn’t realized where she was going until she reached her Dodge Ram pickup, which was parked under the colorful neon cowboy on a bucking bronc that lit up the bar. She let go of Connor’s hand in order to hang her camera by its strap around her neck, then pulled on her fleece. She shook her head in disgust at his behavior in the bar as he frowned back at her.

“What were you thinking?” she said. “Were you trying to get arrested? Don’t you want to be a father to Brooke and Sawyer?”

“I was thinking that son of a bitch was being a pain in the ass, all because of something I started in high school.”

Eve stared at him in shock. Connor was responsible for all those cruel taunts about her name?

He shoved a hand through his hair, but a hank of it fell back onto his forehead. “Thanks for getting me out of there.”

“I wish I hadn’t bothered, now that I know you started that ‘Eve’ business. Do you have any idea how much aggravation you caused me in high school?”

He shot her a mutinous, unapologetic look. “No more than you caused me by telling Molly I’d take her to that Sadie Hawkins dance her freshman year. No thanks to you it turned out all right.”

Eve felt a stab of shame. Molly had been crazy about Connor Flynn in high school. So had Eve. But she might as well have aspired to date the man in the moon. Not just because Connor was a senior and she was a freshman, but because Connor was a Flynn. A broken arm. A broken leg. Ruined dreams. Too many years of hurt and harm stood between them.

Molly had desperately wanted to ask Connor to the Sadie Hawkins dance, but she’d been too shy to do it. Eve had told her friend that she would ask for her but then chickened out. Besides, she didn’t want her best friend dating the boy she had a crush on herself. She’d lied and told Molly that she’d asked Connor and he’d said yes, figuring that Connor would blow Molly off when she came running up to him, excited that he’d accepted her invitation, and Molly would be humiliated and never speak to him again.

Admittedly, it was not her finest moment.

Instead, Connor had met Eve’s gaze as she stood by her locker across the hall while Molly smiled up at him, delighted that he’d accepted her invitation to the dance. His eyes had narrowed at Eve, as though he knew she was the one responsible for this further bit of Grayhawk-Flynn monkey business. Then he’d smiled down at Molly as though he was glad to be going to the dance with Eve’s best friend.

To Eve’s dismay, Molly and Connor were going steady by the time Connor graduated at the end of the year. He’d told Molly not to wait for him when he enlisted in the military, and Eve had felt a flare of hope that they might break up. But Molly called or texted or emailed or wrote Connor every day while he was away learning all the skills he’d need to fight a war.

Meet the Author

Joan Johnston is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of many historical and contemporary romance novels. She received a master of arts degree in theater from the University of Illinois and graduated with honors from the University of Texas School of Law at Austin. She is currently a full-time writer living in Colorado.

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Sinful 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
DebDiem More than 1 year ago
Sinful by Joan Johnston is a well written book.  I enjoyed the characters.  This story is terrific and full of drama, bits of humor and a bit of steam. I look forward to reading more from Joan Johnston in the future.  This book is a complete book, not a cliff-hanger. 
TammyS32 More than 1 year ago
An excellent contemporary western that is full of suspense, drama and plenty of sexual tension. Connor’s wife was killed and now his in-laws want to take his children. His wife’s best-friend needs a place to stay and he needs help with the kids while he runs the ranch. Eve has had a crush on Connor since they were teenagers, will she be able to hide her feeling from him? The story is fast paced and held my interest throughout. The characters are complex, plenty of twists and turns. A great read!
Judy-Ree More than 1 year ago
I haven't read a Joan Johnston westerns for many years. Why, I ask myself? Because I got side tracked in other genres. It happens. But now that I am rediscovering how much I love me a cowboy (my sister and I agree, it's something about that swagger in tight jeans), I am finding myself coming back to Joan Johnston.   If ya'll have followed me any, you know I hate starting in the middle of a series. 9 times out 10 you feel like you are missing something. This is book is part of that 10% where you don't. If I hadn't seen the big ole #13 on Goodreads, I wouldn't have guessed it was that far in. This book feels like the start of a new arc in the series, dealing with the so called King's Brats and their life long nemeses the Wild Flynn Boys. The stage is being set for more books within this multi-family dynamic. So if you are like me and hate missing anything, this is a good place to jump in without that worry. This story focuses on Connor and Eve. Watching them dance around one another, the habits and prejudices of years keeping them from telling each other how much they love and want the other, kept me wondering who would finally get the courage to make the first move. In a surprising twist, it's neither and both. Intrigued? Ha! Read the book and find out. This was a quick read, mainly because it sucked me right in and didn't let me go until I finished the book. I am looking forward to reading more about the families and figuring out if some of the other siblings stop sniping at each other long enough to admit their attractions as well. I really enjoyed the book and gave it 4 stars. Thanks to Netgalley and Dell for the opportunity to read and review the book.
agardone More than 1 year ago
Great book by a great author.
SaraBetty More than 1 year ago
Loved the book... The story, the characters and the suspense of what happens next keep you reading page after page.. Next book comes out Dec 29th and I am sure it will be a continuation of the story... Excellent writing and one of the best books I have read in a while.. Recommend!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Only negative - the graphic sex scenes weren't necessary.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Really enjoyed this book, but $7.99 for the sequel???
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Nice read. Love the whole series
Sargon1 More than 1 year ago
I got so pulled into this book I could put it down. Eve and Conner and their trials with two ruthless fathers and their sibling had me hoping they would work it out. Add in to precious children and the complication they had cared for each other for years while Conner has been in the Army and married to Eve's best friend and you have a great story . Picking up the next one.friend
gromine49 More than 1 year ago
I haven't read a Joan Johnston book in a long time-been years-but I am so, so glad I was given the opportunity to read this book. It was intriguing from the very beginning, with the twists and turns of family, relationships and trying to forget the past in order to move forward into the future. Wonderful story.
Lashea677 More than 1 year ago
Sinful (A Bitter Creek Novel) by: Joan Johnston A marriage of convenience that turns into love. Although this type of story can sometime come across cliched. Ms. Johnston manages to draw you in from the very first page and guide you through till the the of book. You feel each characters heartbreak and longing as well as each individual trying to make the right choice for all involved. Beautiful story.
celticmaggie More than 1 year ago
This is book One in a new series for Joan. I have read some of her previous books and I liked them. This one sucked me right into this story. I don't know how she came up with this story line but it is awesome. I fell in love with her characters before the first chapter was over. Again it starts in High School. Connor really liked Eve but their families have a huge feud going on. Molly, her best friend had a crush on him so he uses her to make Eve jealous and only hurt himself. He goes into the military and marries Molly. He deploys and comes home for good after being injured and Molly dies. Spoilers. Now he needs Eve to help him get custody of his 2 young children. Spoiler. Eve and Connor marry so the State won't take his kids away. She was kicked out of her house so it was good timing. Major Spoilers here. You won't believe how this book ends. So if you are curious then get this book.! You will sure want the next one too. Enjoy your book! I have this book for an honest review for NetGalley.