"Smart and entertaining." -RT Book Reviews, 4 stars, Call Me Wild
A woman who gets what she wants...
Bianca Ferrari-ex-supermodel turned successful business woman-seems to have it all: beauty, brains and a career she loves. And she did it all by herself...through sheer force of will and ruthless determination. So when her life is suddenly turned upside down, it's hard for her to admit that going it alone may not be an option...
A man who knows what she needs...
Sexy, rugged and down-to-earth, Trapper Kincaid has a knack for attracting all kinds of women-mostly the wrong kind. When he finds out that the exhaustingly independent and drop-dead gorgeous Bianca is in serious need of help, he knows he's the man for the job. But Bianca isn't going to make it easy...
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Bianca Ferrari gulped air through her mouth, trying to stop the rise of bile. She'd been in a lot of uncomfortable positions in her lifetime. As an ex-model, she'd been photographed from every angle known to man, except this one-until now.
She looked up from being violently ill and watched herself on the Jumbotron in Times Square-her long blonde hair in one hand, the other holding the edge of an overfilled garbage can.
Her humiliation was now complete.
Another wave of nausea assaulted her, and she heaved into the can. How the mighty have fallen.
James Ness, her only true friend, gently rubbed her back through her cape. "I don't think pregnancy agrees with you. The only time I've seen you glow was when you were green."
A bottle of Evian and a crisp white handkerchief appeared in her line of sight. Bianca grabbed both, straightened slowly, and pulled the collar of her sweater away from her throat-the slightest pressure was enough to get her gag reflex going. She washed out her mouth and was afraid to drink, fearing it might start the whole puking thing all over again. "It's the smell of chestnuts roasting, pretzels, hot dogs-you name it-and the scent makes me yak."
"So, I take it you won't be cooking the turkey or the pumpkin pie."
"You're right. The only things I've been able to keep down are baked potatoes with sour cream, mushrooms, and cheddar cheese, and Five Guys cheeseburgers-go figure."
"What did the doctor say?"
"The guy in Paris? Not much, other than ‘you're pregnant' in broken English. He gave me something to help the morning, noon, and night sickness."
The silver threads in James's dark hair caught the midday light. The glacial blue eyes that had him gracing the covers of full-page Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein ads during his younger days looked her up and down. "It's not working."
"It did help some, but I ran out. Unfortunately, it's not available in the U.S. Damn FDA. If I wasn't so busy, I'd be on the first plane to Paris."
James took her arm. They crossed the street, and he gave the naked cowboy a once-over.
Bianca rolled her eyes. "He's not even hot, James. I thought you had better taste in men."
"I'm just wondering what the guitar is hiding."
"Probably a roll of quarters or a sweat sock."
The corner of James's lip quirked up, but he didn't smile. "Beggars can't be choosers, my dear. Not everybody can snap their fingers and have a hot man at their beck and call."
"Which is how I ended up puking in the middle of the crossroads of America." She slid her hand over her still flat stomach. "Not that I'm complaining." The sideways glance James shot her made her laugh. "Okay, I'm not complaining much. I'm happy about the baby, but it couldn't have come at a worse time. It's fashion season, and I feel as if I have a terminal case of the flu."
"It's not terminal, it can't last more than nine months. Have you shared the good news yet with His Honor?"
James stopped, and since she had her hand tucked into his arm, she was forced to stop too. He faced her and gave her an I'm-disappointed-in-you look. "What are you waiting for?"
"Hell to freeze over." She tugged on his arm to get him moving. "Come on, James. Trapper was fun and everything, but it was a fling."
"Really? Was he aware of that?"
"Of course he was."
James scooted them by the guys handing out flyers for cheap Broadway tickets. "I don't know of any other man who would fly across the country for a fling, not to mention dropping everything to fly to London for a booty call-not even a booty as nice as yours. A few more months, and you can kiss that skinny ass of yours good-bye-just sayin'."
"For your information, I'm actually losing weight."
James put his arm around her shoulder. "That's not going to last either."
Bianca chose to ignore him, and any thought of her increasing waistline, stretch marks, and spreading hips. "So, Trapper likes to travel." If only to see the inside of her hotel room. "Besides, he had his grandfather's jet at his disposal when he came to New York."
"Bianca, my dear, wake up and smell the coffee-"
She covered her mouth with her hand and swallowed the flood of saliva-a prelude to illness. "Oh please, don't mention the smell of coffee."
"No man likes to travel that much. Give me a break. I saw the way he looked at you. It wasn't merely a fling for the good judge."
"Trapper's the seventy-two-hour man, remember?"
"He can last for seventy-two hours?" James's eyes widened and glittered like a window display at Tiffany's.
The answer to that question was yes, but she'd sooner die than admit it. She was pretty sure Trapper could beat the seventy-two-hour limit, but that wasn't any of James's business. "He said he can't maintain a relationship for over seventy-two hours because he finds it impossible to be nice that long. Apparently, after three days, his inner asshole appears. Although the first time I met him, I saw him in all his ass-holi-ness glory-it didn't even take seventy-two seconds. I don't want to be tied to a man like Trapper-well, not longer than a few days."
James held the door of the office building open. "And yet you ended up doing the nasty for several seventy-two-hour stints."
"Once we came to an understanding, he was quite..." Perfect, edible, smart, funny, insatiable, oddly sweet, thoughtful, wonderful, did she mention incredible? "Satisfying."
"What kind of understanding was that?"
Bianca was so done with this conversation. She smashed her finger on the elevator button repeatedly. "It was a no-strings fling."
"You actually had the conversation?"
She looked into James's eyes and nodded. She must have, though she couldn't recite it word-for-word. It must have come up sometime in between all that earth-shaking, orgasm-inducing, mind-splintering sex. She was almost sure of it.
Trapper Kincaid sat at the bar in Humpin' Hannah's, directly beneath the hanging wagon wheel draped with Christmas lights, and wondered if the purple bra dangling from the cowboy boot was a new addition. He emptied the pitcher of beer into his not-so-iced mug, checked to see where his little sister Karma, the bartender, was, and thanked God she worked the other side of the bar. The last thing he needed was for her to catch him checking out the Facebook page of the owner of Action Models, Bianca Ferrari.
Shit. He stared at his iPhone. Bianca's page was filled with the same Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, blah, blah, blah. No real information. Nothing to tell him where she was, nothing to tell him that she was okay, not a fucking clue as to what the hell happened.
He clicked on Bianca's profile picture-one that had been taken when they were together in Stanley, Idaho, last summer. The first time he laid eyes on her had planted itself in his memory bank for eternity. She'd stepped out of a limo at one thirty in the morning in the middle of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area. He'd been on the porch of his cabin and held his breath as the pointed toe of one seriously sexy woman's boot hit the hard-packed ground. The boot went to mid-thigh and had a heel that seemed as high and thin as the air over Mount Borah. Long, blonde hair hung past her shoulders, playing peekaboo with a rack that was worthy of a limerick-one he'd been working on ever since. The rest of her body moved her right into goddess territory. The woman was breathtakingly alluring and eerily familiar. He'd seen her before-hundreds, if not thousands, of times-on ads, commercials, and if he wasn't mistaken, the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue ten or twelve years before.
Saying Bianca Ferrari was beautiful was like saying the surface of the sun was a little warm. He had been sucked into her atmosphere and scorched.
In less than eighteen hours, he'd watched, wanted, pitied, paddled, and propositioned her. In less than a week, he'd kissed, nibbled, and licked every square inch of her. In less than a month, her body had been branded on his brain like a 1940s pinup enshrined in a mechanic's shop. In less than two months, they'd had multiple seventy-two-hour flings-something unheard of in his past-in three time zones-New York, London, and Milan. In less than three months, he found himself sitting at home, alone, waiting for the phone to ring, and staring at her Facebook page, wondering what had gone wrong.
Except for tonight.
Tonight he waited for his brothers to have a preholiday family meeting. He wished they would hurry the hell up so he could get back to waiting and wondering in the privacy of his own home.
Hunter slid onto the stool beside his. "What's going on with you, Trap? You look worn out and strung tighter than a country singer's Wranglers."
"Nothing. I'm just working too hard-a murder case. You know how it is."
"We have about one murder a year here in Boise, and you always seem to be the one to try them. Is it a bad one?"
"Aren't they all? The DA is going for first degree. Death penalty cases are always the worst." He was just glad that his family members weren't fans of Court TV. He'd okayed cameras in his courtroom for the news, since there was a lot of public interest in the case. He never thought Court TV would pick it up. If his siblings found out he was turning into a star judge, he'd never live it down. Trapper finished his beer and watched his brother over the rim of his glass. Hunter had the Kincaid look-if you added irritatingly, irrationally, terminally happy to the mix. He'd been that way since he'd married Toni. The same weekend Trapper and Bianca had hooked up for the first of their seventy-two-hour flings. He'd counted wrong. They'd had flings in four time zones, not three. Damn, he had to get a grip. He scrubbed his hand over his week-old beard. He'd never been a fan of barbers or shaving, so he needed both. Most of all, he needed to hear from Bianca.
Hunter waved a hand at Karma, and a minute later, a full mug of IPA slid the length of the bar, stopping before it hit Hunter's hand. "At least you have your annual between Christmas and New Year's fling to look forward to. So, who is the lucky lady, and where are you going?"
Trapper tipped his cowboy hat low over his eyes. "I'm not this year. I'm working through the thirty-first. I'll be off after the New Year though."
"And who I'm with and where I decide to go is none of your damn business. You've been hanging around your wife too much-you're starting to sound like a gossipy woman."
Ever since Hunter and Fisher had married the loves of their lives, they suffered from the same disease most couples do-the everyone-should-be-happily-married-like-us syndrome. In Trapper's experience, that lasted until the relationship started going south.
Trapper caught a glimpse of Fisher walking in with their quasi cousin Ben Walsh.
They waved to Karma, motioning for pitchers, before joining Hunter and him at the end of the bar.
Ben checked his watch. "We have about forty-five minutes until the women join us. If you want to get this meeting going, we better head upstairs."
Karma set two pitchers of beer in front of them and pulled her apron off. "I'm ready."
All heads turned toward her.
Fisher stuffed his hands in his pockets. "I thought it would just be us guys."
Trapper had to give the boy props, taking one for the team and all, but he should have known better than to go up against Karma. It was a good thing he was an orthopedist. The bones he might have to set could be his own.
None of them had ever gone up against Karma and come out unscathed. And being scathed by Karma was a freakin' nightmare. He should know-she'd been practicing her skills on him since the day she was born. At least he was smart enough to be afraid of her. Very afraid.
Ben laughed. "Right, Karma. Like we want you involved."
Obviously, Trapper was the brains of the family. He sat back making sure he was well out of Karma's reach as her eyes got that freaky green glow of fury. Damn, this would get ugly if he didn't put a stop to it.
"If you four don't cut the crap right now, I'll call the police and have the lot of you thrown in jail. In case you aren't aware, I have the chief of police on speed dial."
Karma slid under the pass-through and rounded the bar, green eyes glaring, body tense, and itchin' for a fight.
Karma put one hand on her hip. Trapper was sure she was keeping her other arm free to punch with. Damn. This was a disaster in the making. Karma stepped back and speared Hunter, Fisher, and Ben with her psycho, green-eyed glare. "The three of you owe everything to me, and now you want to keep me out of the loop? There's one thing you losers don't understand. Boys, I am the loop."
Trapper couldn't help it. He rocked back on the heels of his cowboy boots and laughed.
Karma elbowed him in the stomach, almost knocking the wind out of him.
"Hey? What the hell did I do to deserve that?"
"You're my big brother. You should have stuck up for me."
"They're your big brothers too. And I even offered to call the cops. If I had stuck up for you, you would have been pissed at me for fighting your battles. I learned my lesson after trying to defend your honor when Brian Wayne copped an unwanted feel. If I remember correctly, you sent him to the hospital for a few days, and I ended up in the emergency room getting stitches."
"That wasn't my fault."
"You're the one who cut my eye open. I still have the scar."
Karma turned red when he pointed to it.
Fisher checked his watch. "Okay. If we're doing this, we'd better do it now. I don't know how much longer Gina and Toni will be able to keep Jessie in that spa. She thought their plans were tantamount to Chinese water torture."
Karma didn't bother hiding her shiver. "Jessie's right about that. Why do you think I'm working?" Karma grabbed the pitchers. "Let's get this meeting over with."
Karma carried pitchers of beer past the nine-foot stuffed black bear dressed in Boise State garb and climbed the circular metal stairs to the second floor. She gazed at the area with pride. She'd worked damn hard to make Humpin' Hannah's the best bar in Boise, and in her opinion, she'd succeeded.
She passed the pool tables, all of which were in use, and made sure all the signs for beer and liquor were lit and the framed Boise State jerseys hanging from the exposed brick were straight. Since the bar was downstairs and cocktail servers worked the second floor, she didn't get up there much. She led the crew to a tall table in the back.
The guys set down their mugs and grabbed a few more bar stools.
Karma poured the beer and took a seat, looking at each of her brothers and cousin. "So, what do we know about Angel Anderson?"
Fisher pulled up a stool, and then slid it away from her-the ninny. "He's a pitcher on the Jersey Jackals, and there's been some talk about moving him to the big leagues. He lives on the North Shore of Long Island-which, I'm told, is a really nice area. I think his family is rich-Grampa Joe rich. Other than that, we don't know much."
Of course, what was she thinking? She couldn't expect boys to do a woman's job. "One of us should meet him and feel him out. Since the adoption was private, we don't even know if he is Gina's long-lost brother. And if he is, we don't know if he's aware of the adoption. The situation has to be handled with delicacy." She sat back and smiled, knowing she was the perfect person to do just that. After all, she was a woman. Women were delicate creatures-okay, maybe not her-but hey, she understood more about delicacy than any of the four stooges ever would. Besides, she'd seen his picture. She wouldn't mind working on him and taking a few DNA samples of her own. Especially since her overprotective brothers would be twenty-eight hundred miles away.
Trapper looked up from under his low-set cowboy hat. "I'll do it."
Crap. She hadn't expected that. "You?"
"Yes, me. I have a few weeks off after this trial. I'll fly to New York after the New Year and handle it."
Ben shook his head. "Why don't I handle it? After all, he could be my brother-in-law."
"That's why. You're too close to the situation. I'm a disinterested party, not to mention a lawyer in the state of New York. I'm still licensed to practice there. It will work to our advantage, and Angel Anderson will have no way to connect us."
Karma really hated it when her über-intelligent brother had a point. He effectively took all the wind out of poor Ben's sails.
Ben nodded. "Are you staying with me and Gina? We have plenty of room." And they lived right in Brooklyn, so it made sense.
"No. If Angel's family is the one who tried to scare Hunter off the scent when he was snooping around, they know where you live. I can't be anywhere near your place. I'll just get a hotel room or something."
The "or something" sent Karma's Spidey sense tingling up and down her spine. Trapper had another reason he wanted to be in New York, and she had a feeling it had nothing to do with that hot baseball player who might be Gina's brother, and everything to do with the nasty-ass mood he'd been in for a few months. Never one to beat around the proverbial bush, she tossed it right on the table. "Good, now that we have the whole Angel Anderson issue covered, let's talk about the weird mood you've been in, Trapper. What's crawled up your boxers and died?"
Hunter winked at her. "Yeah, you've been in a shit mood ever since one of your infamous flings had a last-minute cancellation."
Fisher joined in on the pileup. "You stomped around looking worried for a week after that, then you went from worried to pissed to...I don't know what. If it had been anyone other than you, I'd swear you were heartbroken."
Ben had the audacity to laugh. "Heartbroken? Not Trapper. No, Trap never gets involved with women. Sure, he likes them. And they certainly like him-a lot. But he hasn't had a relationship that lasted over seventy-two hours since he returned from his stint as a DA in New York."
Trapper set his mug down with a thunk. "You do realize I'm sitting right here and can kick all your asses into next week, don't you?"
Karma shot him a grin. "You can't kick my ass-Mom would kill you. But now that you mention it, Ben, Trapper hasn't had a real relationship since he became a judge. He's so well known for his seventy-two-hour flings, I've even heard them regaled at the bar. More than one of his women weren't happy with the ‘no repeat performance' rule."
She looked around to make sure she still had the attention of the table. "Sure, he claims it's because he can't be nice for longer than seventy-two hours at a shot before he becomes an ass. I'll have to agree with him there. But a few months ago, something changed. Hell, he hasn't even looked at any women since. Curiouser and curiouser."
Trapper stood and speared each of them with his glare. He had that whole angry, strong, bad boy Judge Dredd thing going along with the I-can-have-you-hauled-in-with-one-phone-call look. It was scary and effective. "That's enough. I'm outta here."
His voice was low, menacing, and the vacant, haunted expression covering his face sent her Spidey sense skittering in a way that had her worried. Damn, her big brother was hurting, and she had no idea who had his balls in a noose.
Ben stood too, and stepped in front of Trapper, boxing him in the corner. "Hey, Trap, we're just concerned. You have to admit you've been off your game lately. What's going on?"
"Nothing that I care to talk about. Just leave it alone. Hell, leave me alone. Do I make myself clear?"
The guys exchanged looks and nodded.
Of course, no one looked at her. She'd be damned if she'd let him off with a flimsy little threat. Men could be such weenies. If Trapper was hurting, she sure as shit wouldn't allow it to continue. She didn't know what she'd do, but she'd figure it out. She had a new mission, and there was nothing her brothers could hide from her-at least, not for long.