Devlin Bradley knows Honeywilde Inn's no-dating-guests policy is a sensible one, but when has he ever followed the rules? Sure, he's been working to change his reputation as the rebellious Bradley brother and town troublemaker, but the captivating new guest from Atlanta is worth risking his family's disapproval.
Anna Martel is going to relax--even if it kills her. The alternative is a spectacular breakdown, according to her therapist, and that's something Anna would like to avoid. Taming her workaholic ways isn't going to be easy with nothing to focus on, though--until she meets devilishly attractive Devlin. His slow, sexy smile is a temptation she can't resist, even if she knows he's nothing more than a distraction. Or is he?
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.63(d)|
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A Date with Desire
By Heather McGovern
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2016 Heather McGovern
All rights reserved.
Looking at the Bradley brothers was like staring into the sun.
A beautiful, blue-eyed sun, so big and bright the sight hurt a little, but Anna still studied them with a sharp eye as they buzzed around the check-in area.
They were all tall, hair the color of rich coffee, and in the kind of rugged shape that came from working in the mountains. The family photo on the resort's website didn't do them justice, especially not the rakish-looking one in the corner.
He was more like a sun god.
A sun god, sent to whisk a weary traveler like her away from the ever-tightening grip of big-city reality. Pamper her with luxury and cater to her every whim and wish.
Good Lord, she was word-vomiting in ad copy.
Her brain whirred on high-speed work mode when she was supposed to be checking into the Honeywilde Inn and Resort to relax and recover.
Her therapist was right. The time had come. She either took a break or had another breakdown. The choice was hers.
"You'll be in Cabin Five," one of the other Bradley brothers said. His shiny name badge announced him as Roark Bradley, General Manager. "Trevor will show you the way up. Cabin Five sits at the highest point on the property." He turned to who she guessed was the youngest of the three. "Trev, take my truck and have Ms. Martel follow you. Five can be tricky to find until you know your way around."
While he murmured to Trevor about offering to help with her luggage and watching the steep bend in the last turn, the third brother stepped out of his corner.
Devlin Bradley, Hospitality Manager, his name badge read.
Devil Bradley might be more fitting.
The slow, sly drag of his gaze up her body, from the tips of her toes to the sunglasses stuck on her head, would be lewd if he didn't look so adorable trying to hide it.
Arms crossed over his body, he leaned against the reception desk and scratched along his temple, checking her out around the side of his hand and in between his fingers.
All of this, she noticed from the corner of her eyes because she was not checking him out too. But, if she were checking him out, she'd say he was easily the handsomest of the three.
No, handsome wasn't right. His brother, the manager, was handsome.
Devlin was sexy.
Tall and filled out, he was still a little leaner than his brothers. His dark hair was too long on top to be considered professional, eyes hooded like he'd recently woken from a post-sex nap, and a jawline that'd make any model jealous. Broody, in a classic James Dean sense, but with a hint of boyish charm.
He was the type they hired to advertise trendy clothing lines, and she was half tempted to call her office and let them know.
But she was not working right now. She was supposed to be on vacation.
Just a woman, on vacation, admiring a good-looking guy as he proceeded to fake cough so she'd look in his direction.
Anna pinched her lips together to keep from smiling.
Devlin was tempting, no doubt a handful, and she couldn't deal with any of that at the moment.
Taking a break from her burgeoning career, leaving her job in the lurch, that was enough to handle. Following her therapist's advice of rest, recovery, and "participating in the process of grief" would likely prove too much.
She had no room in her vacation for blue-eyed devils, she sucked at relaxing, and the process of grief could take a flying leap off this mountain.
"Are you all set, ma'am?" The youngest Bradley straight up ma'am-ed her as he walked by.
With a smile that weighed more than her luggage, she nodded. "I'm ready if you are."
Trevor Bradley, his name badge stated, bounded toward the front door and she turned to follow. But her gaze snagged with Devlin's.
She meant to look away. Follow the harmless Bradley who would lead the way to her cabin.
If she had, she would've avoided the sensuous curl of Devlin's lips, the flicker of interest. She returned his smile, unwittingly, and that got all of his attention.
His smile spread wider, revealing perfect white teeth, and an all-too-knowing look in his eyes.
Heat rushed up the back of her neck, pinpricks dancing across her skin.
Encouraging him was a horrible idea, but her physical reaction was even worse. Whether she admitted it or not, her body knew what was up.
Devlin Bradley was all kinds of hot, and his being the last thing she needed to tangle with right now only made him hotter.
If his lingering looks were any indication, he didn't think she was too shabby either.
Anna turned on the heels of her wedge sandals and got the heck out of there.
By the time she left the lobby of the Honeywilde inn, the back of her neck was on fire. Hopefully her hair hid everything, because once it flared up, her skin would be cherry-red back there.
Trevor led the way to Cabin Five in a big black pickup truck, the wheels of her Lexus spinning a couple of times as she tried to keep up on the curvy incline.
Her car wasn't made for off-road mountain driving. She wasn't made for off-road mountain driving, but she'd been told to choose a vacation at a legitimate resort or one of those "retreats." The ones where she'd be in therapy and meditation all day because she couldn't cope with what life dealt her.
She'd opted for the first appealing vacation spot that'd popped up on her Google search for "upscale North Carolina mountain getaways."
If she was going to take time away from work, it had to be the mountains. Maybe then she would stop putting off her responsibility. But "upscale" meant she wouldn't wind up in a pup tent or a cabin with no running water.
Honeywilde boasted peace and quiet, lovely strolls around the lake, hiking, delicious dining, legendary sunsets, and a warm, luxurious atmosphere.
Sold, she'd booked into one of their private cabins immediately, for two-and-a-half weeks.
Take my money, she'd thought. Just please don't let me fall apart.
The black pickup stopped in front of a sturdy log cabin; a covered porch stretched across the front with two Adirondack chairs and two rockers.
A little sign post at the bottom of the stairs read: Cabin Five: Highpoint Escape.
Escape. "Perfect." She popped the trunk of her car.
Before she could get out, Trevor was at the back, unloading both of her suitcases.
"I've got it." He pulled out the shoulder bag as well, but Anna took the bag from his hands. That one was precious. "I'll get this." She played it off. "I know my two suitcases aren't light."
Had she over-packed? Probably. But did she have any idea what a person needed to pack for a vacation in the mountains? Absolutely not.
The weather could be hot or cold, dry or damp. Was dinner at Honeywilde dressy or casual? Did she need hiking boots and sneakers? Until yesterday, she didn't own hiking boots.
Now she did.
Along with something called a rope bag and a pair of god-awful shoes one was supposed to wear in the river. As if she had plans to walk in the river.
The salesman at the outdoor store swore she'd need all of it. He'd known a sucker as soon as he saw her.
All that remained in the trunk was her train case, full of cosmetics, toiletries, and a bottle of Xanax she'd refused to crack open — so far. Anna grabbed the case and her purse and hurried after Trevor.
Once he'd off-loaded her things, he wished her an awesome stay, and took off, leaving her all alone, in her Highpoint Escape.
"Well. Here we are," she said, doing a slow three-sixty in the middle of the cabin's den, her announcement met with silence.
A two-foot-tall bear, carved out of wood, stared back from beside the fireplace.
He was cute, but fat chance of him responding.
When she was six or seven, her father brought her to North Carolina to see the bears. She'd been terrified, but he'd assured her everything was safe. The bear cubs were cute, the momma bear not so much.
Anna grabbed her phone to take a picture. Her dad would get such a kick out of the bear statue.
The phone suddenly turned to a block of cement in her hand, the picture on the lock screen shaking before she tossed it back in her purse.
Her father was gone. She could no longer send him anything. No funny picture, no one-line comments that only he would appreciate.
She sank to the arm of the sofa, the wave of sadness like gravity.
She'd asked her therapist, Susan, about inviting a friend or boyfriend to join her on her break, phrasing the question as though she had a boyfriend or knew anyone willing to put their life on hold to go away to the mountains with her.
In her mind, she'd figured a traveling companion would make the time more enjoyable. Distract her from loss and the ripple effect that was ruining her life.
Susan's answer was a hard-and-fast no.
The point of her time off was to focus on herself, not others, no distractions, so she could overcome her denial of grief, reflect, and yadda-yadda-something about actualization. Anna was supposed to be taking the time to think about what she wanted out of life and how she'd function in this "new normal."
God, if she never heard that term again it'd be wonderful.
She carefully set her shoulder bag on the coffee table and made herself get up and look around. Missing her father was not going to dissolve into wallowing again.
She'd already tried that, and it didn't help.
The one-bedroom, one-bath cabin turned out to be as lovely as the pictures on the website. Everything was on one level except the loft-style bedroom; the floors were rich hardwoods, the windows big, and no over-the-top moose- or bear-themed décor. Minus the one cute bear guarding the fireplace.
Tastefully decorated in neutrals and warm apricot accents, exactly how she would've set up a log cabin — if she happened to own one.
She peered into the bathroom.
If Cabin Five were her place, she probably would've remembered one very important detail.
Nice Jacuzzi tub, a porcelain pedestal sink, and the toilet looked shiny and clean.
And completely without a seat.
"That is not going to work," she announced to the cabin.
How the heck did you forget a toilet seat?
Then again, if three brothers ran the place, toilet seats probably didn't top their priorities.
Normally she'd unpack first and worry about it later, but later might be too late, and she was here to visit the mountains in style, not cop a squat in the woods.
Flipping through the handy binder by the phone, she found the number for guest services. It rang only once before somebody answered.
"Thank you for calling Honeywilde. How may I be of service?"
Good Lord, the voice on him.
Deep and warm, raspy as if recently overused, with a Southern accent slightly thicker than the ones she heard in Atlanta. The way the words dripped from his lips made the question sound pornographic.
She'd bet anything, with nothing more to go on than a voice, she was talking to Devlin.
"Hello. May I help you?" His voice filled her ear, making goose bumps ripple down her arms.
"Yes. Hi. This is Cabin Five."
"Ms. Martel," he said, before she could get any further. "Are you settling in okay?"
"Um ..." No. She wasn't settled at all, now that he'd purred in her ear, thank you very much. "Yes, everything is great, but there's one tiny problem. In the bathroom, there's no toilet seat."
Silence ruled for a few beats, then, "You're kidding." His voice remained phone sex material, but the dry note of wit made her smile.
"No. I wish I was."
"I am so sorry." Embarrassment and urgency replaced the drawl. "We'll have someone over there immediately."
"Thank you." Hanging up, she realized she was still smiling. Smiling about a missing toilet seat.
When she opened the door to the cabin a few minutes later, the reason why was confirmed.
"Sorry again about the missing seat, but I'm here to take care of it." Devlin's eyes crinkled at the outer edges. In one hand, he held a boxed and wrapped toilet seat, in the other dangled a tool belt. "At the start of the summer season we replace a lot of things and, unfortunately, your toilet seat was overlooked."
"I understand. Come on in." Lord help her, what if he put on that tool belt?
She stepped aside to let him in, and he headed straight through the den and past the kitchen.
As he reached the short hall, he jerked to a stop as if catching himself. "I'm Devlin, by the way. I didn't get to introduce myself earlier."
No, but he'd made quite the impression anyway.
"I'm Anna. Nice to meet you. Officially." For lack of knowing what else to do, and since his hands were full of tool belt and toilet seat, she gave him a slow, wide wave.
Because sometimes she was a giant goober.
"You too." The impish smile on his full lips made her breath catch.
Then he was gone, ducked into the bathroom.
Heat skittered up her neck again, and it wouldn't do. If she let her nervous reaction get out of control, she'd be all blotchy and itchy.
A super-attractive look.
Once a stranger had asked if she was allergic to peanuts or shellfish or something. Nope. Just her body hated her.
She hung back in the hall, furiously fanning her neck.
"My brother, Trev, was supposed to check the cabins for final inspection. We don't use them during the winter, and early spring they're rarely booked, so ..." The clank of tools drifted down the hall. He was definitely putting on the tool belt.
She fanned faster.
"You might be our first guest up here this year."
Carefully, she moved closer to the bathroom door. On the one hand, she did not need to see him being handy and stuff, doing things with wrenches and whatever. But on the other hand, she couldn't go the entire rest of her life having not checked out the tool-belt situation.
"This shouldn't take but a minute. Is everything else okay with the cabin? Or have you even had a chance to check?" The rough edge in his voice soothed her senses, like someone gently scratching her back.
Before she bothered to look inside, she leaned against the wall outside the bathroom to listen to him talk. "Everything else is fine. The cabin is great, you know, besides the toilet. I can't wait to take a walk and have a look around. See what else is here." She rolled out the idea, hoping he'd offer suggestions, elaborate. Anything. As long as he kept talking.
"You checked in at a great time. The sun should set after a while, perfect for catching the colors during a stroll. You have a good view from your front porch, but the best view is at the main inn on the veranda, and you'd still have enough time to make it back here before dark."
Her toes curled in her wedges. A long walk near sunset sounded ideal, or maybe it was the way he said it.
Finally ready, she leaned in the doorway to find Devlin, tool belt on, squatted down and leaned over, jeans pulled tight around thick thighs, messing with something on the wall behind the toilet.
Wrong. She wasn't ready at all.
Who had legs like that? Long and solid looking, like he could hold a girl's weight if he had her up against the — oh good gosh, she was being a perv.
"The supply line is loose. Tightening it up while I'm down here."
"Oh. Hey." He jerked up, probably not expecting her to be all up in the doorway while he worked on a toilet.
She should say something. Quick. Before this got weird.
"So ..." What to say, what to say?
Her line of sight, and therefore thought, was full of Devlin and blue jeans and Wow, and toilets. None of it made for appropriate small talk.
"Food," the word fell out of her mouth.
Of course she came up with food. Now she was smooth too. "I have my own kitchen in the cabin, but I doubt I'll have time to make it to a grocery store today. Doesn't the main inn have a restaurant?" She knew the inn had a restaurant; she'd already picked out the first thing she wanted to order from looking at the menu online. And possibly the second and third.
"We have an outstanding restaurant. Hold that thought." He leaned over again, doing something with a wrench that did delicious things to the muscles in his shoulders and back. Masking nothing, the thin gray T-shirt he wore clung to him, highlighting the dip of his spine, making her fingers itch to touch.
They were supposed to be talking about food. Her neck burned and she fanned it, quickly, while he was distracted.
As bleak as her sex life already was, for over half a year now her desire for anything had gone ice-cold. With no interest, she hadn't even looked twice at a guy. She hadn't read a book past page two, gone shopping except for this trip, or done anything other than work.
Excerpted from A Date with Desire by Heather McGovern. Copyright © 2016 Heather McGovern. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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