They served their country, now these National Guardsmen will find their Happily Ever Afters. Fall in love with All I Ask, the first sizzling standalone romance in Nicole McLaughlin's Man Enough series.
Staff Sergeant Reeve Miller lives by his own golden rules: Train hard, Work hard, and f*ck hard. This way of thinking has served him well. He’s enjoyed a successful career in the military, started his own landscaping business while serving part time in the Guard, and left a string of very happy females in his wake… until he meets one feisty, smart woman in a bar looking for a one-night stand.
Emily Phillips is tired of working her ass off and not enjoying her life. According to her accountant, Emily is a millionaire. But her friends say she is a workaholic heading for lonely spinsterhood.The night of her high school best friend’s bachelorette party seems like a good time to try something new, and when the blue-collar hottie at the bar gives her the look, she’s ready to take a walk on the wild side. He makes it clear that he can give her a night to keep her very satisfied, and since it’s only a night, why bother sharing her title of CEO? But as one night becomes two and three, both Reeve and Emily find it harder to keep their hearts safe.
"A super sexy, naughty-alpha-but-sweet hero, a boss-employee relationship with a twist... Nicole McLaughlin had a new fan by chapter two!" -- New York Times bestseller Erin Nicholas
About the Author
Nicole McLaughlin wrote her first full length book (6 pages) about the birth of her baby sister, when she was eight years old. She only finished it because her mother bribed her with a Rick Astley cassette tape. Sad, but true. Now her characters are what keep her writing and her subject matter has gotten a little bit deeper and a lot more romantic. She resides in a small town outside of Kansas City with her husband and three sons. When she isn’t writing, she’s a wedding and portrait photographer, loves to cook, and watch historical dramas or documentaries. She is the author of the Man Enough novel All I Ask and the Whiskey and Wedding series.
Read an Excerpt
All I Ask
By Nicole McLaughlin
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2017 Nicole McLaughlin
All rights reserved.
Staff Sergeant Reeve Miller refused to go into his mother's house. He knocked hard on the door, knowing that the doorbell had been broken for nearly fifteen years and there was no way in hell she'd had it repaired. He could hear things shuffling inside so he knew she was making her way over. He stepped back off the crumbling front step, waiting on the walkway.
He told himself that he didn't enter the home because it was physically difficult to step inside due to the piles of shit everywhere. But the truth of the matter was that he could not stomach seeing how she lived day in and day out. Just being in her presence was hard enough. Entering the house would be like going back in time to a life he tried hard to forget.
He loved his mother, and he knew down deep she loved him, too, in her own way, but their relationship was damaged almost beyond repair.
The faded and peeling front door slowly creaked open, revealing his mom. Her eyes were red-rimmed and puffy, and her cheeks splotchy. Besides her obvious distress, she looked as well as could be expected, but when she stepped out onto the front porch Reeve noticed how frail she really was. His mother had always been a slight woman, no more than five foot four, and he could probably pick her up with one arm if he wanted. But now her body seemed fragile beneath her old jeans and a T-shirt that had enough cats and sequins on the front to make a grown man recoil.
For one guilty second, Reeve was grateful his friend Brad was waiting in the car.
"Mom, we're all done out here."
She gave him a weak glare.
"I know you're upset, but it had to be done."
She sniffed, crossing her arms over her chest. She wouldn't acknowledge what he'd done in any way but a negative one, he knew that, but it still stung. He and Brad had just cleaned twenty-five years' worth of trash, debris, and weeds from her yard. The exterior still needed paint, had for years. And the landscaping left everything to be desired, which was tough for Reeve, considering that's how he made a living. But there was no doubt that neighbors were currently peeking through their windows in shock at the transformation.
Alice Miller should be thrilled with the results. Reeve sure was. He no longer had to cringe in shame when he pulled up in the driveway. But no, Alice was too busy crying and pouting.
"Your father bought that riding mower the year you were born," she said.
"He sure did, Mom, and it's been sitting right where he left it since the day he left us. So I'm not sure I give a damn." He knew his words were harsh, but he'd had it. His ability to sympathize with her had disappeared years ago. Plus, it never worked. Anger didn't work, either, so Reeve had resorted to just saying whatever the hell he felt right at the moment. Sometimes she argued back with him; right now she just made him feel like shit.
"What if he came back and looked for it?"
"Mom, I'm sorry, but he is never coming back. Why don't you think about how good it feels to have your yard looking so open and clean? No more angry looks from the neighbors."
The city of Manhattan, Kansas, had been receiving complaints about Alice's yard for years. They had finally taken their threats to the next level and had informed her that they were about to come in with bulldozers and a hefty fine if she didn't act herself. That was the only way Reeve had gotten her to agree to let Brad and him do the cleaning for her. He'd found out the hard way that her agreement had only been half the battle. Getting her to commit to a date had proven unsuccessful, so he'd finally taken it out of her hands and they'd just shown up at six this morning. Her puffy face was the best indicator of how well that had gone over.
Ninety-five percent of what used to be considered her yard — the odd piece of machinery, the occasional broken yard decoration, and years of overgrown landscaping — was now loaded into a Dumpster and taken away. He'd even paid extra to have the trash company come right back that afternoon and collect the receptacle so his mom couldn't sneak out there and retrieve anything. He had no doubt that she'd have tried if given the chance.
"You've broken my heart, Reeve. How will I split and replant my daylilies this year now that you've thrown away all of my dirt and mulch?"
Reeve sucked in a deep breath. The pile of dirt that had been sitting in the corner of her backyard for over four years had been so full of weeds, it had turned into a small jungle hill. The bags of mulch she'd bought God knew when were so molded through that he and Brad had pulled out masks to clear it all. He could have tried to explain all of that to her. Easier to just lay out the facts.
"Mom, most of the daylilies were not salvageable. The ones that were I split myself. I think you're all good for now."
"Still. Such a waste of money."
Before he said something regrettable, Reeve said his good-byes and walked out to the truck. When he opened the door Brad gave him an eyebrow raise. "She okay?"
"She will be. It might take her spending fifty bucks at the discount store on shit she doesn't need to do it, but she'll get there."
Brad shook his head. He was the only person in Reeve's life who knew the truth. They'd met in high school and he quickly became Reeve's first true friend. These days he had several good friends — a guy didn't go through eight years of the marines and not get tight with his comrades — but there was only one guy like Brad, because he knew. He'd never been in the house, never seen what Reeve had lived through, but just telling someone all those years ago had been a relief.
It was something he never would have done on his own, but when Brad had asked if he could use their restroom one day when he came to pick him up, Reeve had been forced into a corner. An excuse about a broken toilet could only be told for so long. Reeve still remembered and still appreciated Brad's response. "That sucks, man. But you'll be out soon."
The words had been so simple, and yet the fact that he hadn't freaked out, made a face, or, worse yet, judged Reeve for it had meant the world to him. Nothing about their friendship had changed after the conversation, which had always been his fear. Why he'd always kept people at a distance.
He pulled into Brad's driveway. "Thanks for helping me out. I can't tell you how much I appreciate it."
"No problem. But remember, you're showing me your appreciation with unlimited beers tonight. So I'll see you in ... forty-five minutes? Because after today, if I sit my ass on the couch I can't promise I'll get back up."
Reeve laughed. "I hear ya. Forty-five minutes is good."
After driving the short distance to his own house, Reeve got out and headed inside. He tossed his keys into the bowl on the entryway table. Immediately he took his shoes off, carried them to the closet, and pushed them against the wall.
Living with a hoarder for the better part of his life had fundamentally changed him. Clutter and mess terrified him. To most, his home could be considered bare. Unlived in. To him, it was one step away from tragedy. Leaving one mess, one dish in the sink, was a slippery slope. He didn't dare test fate, because at any moment the hoarding gene that lay dormant in his body could activate and things would tailspin out of control.
His years in the military had been good for him in that regard. Order, cleanliness, and organization were hard for many of the guys to get used to. Reeve had thrived on it. It had been a relief to live in that kind of surrounding when he'd gone off to basic.
After making a quick dinner, he shoved the last bite of his second PB&J in his mouth, threw his napkin away, and wiped up the counter. An ache in his back smarted and his head pounded. Nothing that a hot shower and a few beers wouldn't cure.
Twenty minutes later he was refreshed and pulling back into Brad's house, this time on his Harley. Brad stepped out to his own bike and started up. Before long they were on their way out of town and heading toward their favorite dive bar, The Wicked Deuce.
Reeve needed this. Badly. Not only the destination, but the journey. A good ride would clear his head and help him to refocus on the upcoming workweek. Big Blue Landscaping — his and Brad's baby — was really taking off. Things had been hectic, but he was not complaining.
He had a very basic philosophy for his life, something he and a few friends had jokingly come up with years ago: Work hard, train hard, fuck hard. Yes, it was not something he said out loud, but so far it had served him well. Big Blue and his part-time National Guard drills kept him sane, working out regularly kept him in shape, and tonight he would seek out the third piece of the pie. Arguably the most satisfying piece.
It had been a few months since Reeve had been with a woman, so he was feeling highly motivated. Since Brad was going through a divorce, Reeve had a feeling they were on the same mission.
The feel of his bike's engine beneath him was soothing, and the monotony of the road slowed his racing mind. After nearly an hour of the wind whipping his face, he was feeling inspired and renewed. All he needed now was a drink, and if a beautiful woman showed some interest tonight, all the better.
Brad's taillights lit up and Reeve followed him off the highway before pulling into the bar parking lot. The Wicked Deuce looked like an oversized shack from the outside, but nobody seemed dissuaded by that. Reeve and Brad liked that it was far enough out of town that they rarely saw anyone they knew and the bartenders tended to overpour their already cheap-as-hell drinks.
After parking on the gravel patch off to the side of the building, they entered through the main door and inhaled the heady scent of dive bar: a mix of wood polish, cheap perfume, and backed-up floor drains. Smelled like a relaxing Saturday night. On the inside the place was a little more visually appealing than the exterior, but not much. Probably why they kept the lights low. But it suited Reeve and Brad's purposes just fine.
Without a word, they sat down at the end of the bar, ordered their usual, and took a long drink. Finally, after they'd both hydrated and acclimated to their surroundings, Brad spoke up. "Busy tonight."
Reeve glanced over to the dance floor and nodded in agreement. It was the weekend, so it wasn't that unusual, but there did seem to be a lot of bodies in the old building. The Deuce tended to attract a certain crowd. Mainly farmers, country folk, and young people who lived nearby. It was only about an hour north of Manhattan, so occasionally college students from K-State or soldiers from Fort Riley would find their way out here, but tonight there was a different vibe. And then Reeve saw why.
About a dozen or so ladies were on the dance floor sporting bright-pink boas and blinking headbands. Definitely not the type of woman the Deuce usually attracted. Men weren't always the quickest on the uptake, but the quality of their dresses, the sleekness of their hair, and the perfection of their makeup were dead giveaways. These females weren't country-bred, they were country-club, and the farm boys were enjoying the show. Obviously, these ladies were partaking in a little recreational slumming. Wasn't that sweet.
Reeve looked over at Brad. "Bachelorette party."
"Oh hell." Brad shook his head and then lifted his glass to his mouth.
Reeve chuckled. "Never know, they could be looking for a good time." Sometimes the classier clientele liked to take their slumming to the extreme. He was pretty certain he'd been a willing victim of that before.
Brad gave him a side eye. "Yeah, well, I'm not looking for a fight with someone's fiancé. Or husband. They don't look like a young bunch. Got to be in their thirties."
Reeve glanced back to the group. The bride-to-be had a crown on her head and appeared to be having a heck of a time. She was cute. A couple of them were, but Brad was right, they weren't exactly the just-out-of-college type like most of the bachelorette parties one encountered in a bar. Most of these women were probably married and enjoying a rare night out. Reeve liked to keep his hookups mess-free, which usually leaned toward younger and definitely unattached.
"How about the Debbie Downer in the back," Brad said, nodding to the back corner and interrupting Reeve's thoughts.
He looked where his friend indicated and spotted the woman holding down the fort alone at the table on the far side of the dance floor. She also had a light-up headband on her blond head, and Reeve chuckled to himself as he realized the two objects bobbing on top of her head were shaped like dicks.
"Must be the designated driver."
"I don't think so. She's got something pink in her glass," Reeve said absently.
"She's kind of hot."
She was. Beautiful even. But damn, she did not appear to be having a good time. Probably some female drama she was pissed off about. The way she kept glancing down at her phone and biting at her lip — possibly her husband was mad that she was out and it was killing her buzz. Who the hell knew and why in God's name was he thinking about it?
Brad had spotted her first, so the brotherly thing to do would be to give him dibs. Then he watched as she shoved her cell phone down the top of her strapless dress, lifted her hands to her head to adjust her dick headband, and stood up.
Reeve swallowed hard, his throat suddenly dry.
"Damn," Brad whispered beside him. They watched the blonde turn and walk back toward the restrooms. After she disappeared, Reeve turned to his friend.
"Damn is right."
"I can't believe she had room to squeeze that phone in there with those tits."
Reeve shook his head. He'd been thinking the same thing. "Lucky phone."
At that they both took a drink in salute of the tiny black number that Debbie Downer had been wearing. It was short and tight, hugging her ass like a teenage boy's wet dream come true. For a while they focused on the news that played on the TV, but for some reason Reeve's eyes kept finding their way back to the table, waiting for the black dress and pouty red lips to return. When they finally did he couldn't seem to stop staring. She was so far out of his league it was laughable, but that had never really stopped him before. It's not like he wanted to ask her out on a romantic date.
But at the same time, he couldn't help wondering what her story was. Why wasn't she out there on the dance floor making a fool of herself alongside her girlfriends? What was so interesting on that phone? And would he be able to fit his fingers down that tight-ass dress? Okay, not part of her story, but it was a question on his mind.
Once seated, she quickly slid her hand back down her dress to retrieve the device, and again stared at it like it held the secrets of the universe. His curiosity continued to be piqued.
After the music switched to a slow song, the rest of the ladies in the bachelorette party made their way back to the table and sat down with her. She quickly nestled her phone back down into the side of her breast — and then she did something that nearly blew Reeve's mind.
Good Lord, if he'd thought she was beautiful before, now he knew she was downright gorgeous. He couldn't really explain it, but there was just something about her that pulled his attention like a tractor beam. She laughed with the other ladies, so his theory about her not getting along with the group was out. Maybe she just didn't like to dance. Couldn't hold that against her. He didn't like it, either. But he had to admit that he'd like nothing more than to see her on the dance floor. Might even inspire him to drag his ass out there just to get close to her.
Glancing over at Brad, Reeve found his buddy eyeing the news again. Probably busy thinking about his ex. Again. Reeve took it as a sign that Brad had no intention of pursuing Debbie Downer, so he went back to watching her.
She was no skinny chick. Her curves were full and supple, her breasts squeezed and standing at attention in that dress. The group talked and laughed, and he couldn't help but wonder what he'd have to do or say to make her smile at him like that.
A pop song that sounded just as annoying now as it had twenty years earlier came on over the speakers, sending the women squealing and rushing back to the dance floor. They might look like they were in their thirties, but put a pack of women together and they all acted the same. The bride-to-be grabbed the woman in black's hand and practically dragged her onto the floor.
She was quickly swallowed up by the crowd and lost from view. Irritated, Reeve tossed back the rest of his beer and motioned to the bartender for another one. Two women sat down on the other side of Brad and instantly struck up a conversation, but Reeve continued to keep one eye on the back-corner table, even as Brad initiated some awkward introductions.
Excerpted from All I Ask by Nicole McLaughlin. Copyright © 2017 Nicole McLaughlin. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
All I Ask is everything I love in a romance- strong characters, amazing chemistry, & a great story. Nicole McLaughlin is a new author to me but I will be reading more by her ASAP I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader Copy of this book.
Received an ARC for my fair review for netgalley. We meet Reeve and Emily in this love story. Reeve is in the national guard, and is starting life as a civilian, after being in the Marines for many years. Reeve had a pretty difficult life due to his mothers mental illness, and he is highly embarrassed of her situation. On a night out in the town, he is instantly attracted to Emily, and he makes a move on her. Emily is headstrong in business, but shy in real life situations, she is also instantly attracted to Reeve, They decide on a one night stand, and Emily does not even give Reeve her name, they were hot together, so Reeve keeps thinking of her. They do get together again, and she still does tell him who she is, and when he finds out, all hell breaks lose. Eventually they fix, I love myself some Reeve.
book one in the man enough series, all i ask, introduces us to a team of ex-military men who are now national guard members. reeve miller is building a landscape business now that he's rejoined civilian life. his national guard drills let him maintain the sense of order and brotherhood that is so important to him. especially considering his upbringing. his mother has a severe mental illness, she's a hoarder and there is no rehab or therapy that will fix her. so reeve has found ways to deal with this. one of them happens to be blowing off steam at the local bar. one evening a bachelorette party is there, and he is fascinated by one of the single ladies. and when he gets close to her he is mindlessly attracted to her too. emily phillips isn't the kind of woman who picks up guys in bars. but she's been accused one time to many of being a workaholic, and something about this guy makes her want to break character. she expects this to be a simple one night stand. and so she lies about her name and she runs away in the middle of the night never expecting to see him again. but it turns out that reeve is the landscaper in charge of the design project on the building she owns. she's a multimillion dollar ceo of a theater chain. its a business she inherited from her grandfather, a business her father never had a chance to run because he died when she was nine years old. her stepfather was ex-military and always a jerk so she's been leery of military men ever since. especially since non-military men already have a problem with her success as a business owner. when she can't deny her attraction from reeve, she lets herself fall into a relationship with him. but she doesn't share all of herself with him. she hides her success from him. and he makes it easy for her. he recognizes that she doesn't want to talk about certain things, and since he doesn't want to talk about his mother he respects her boundaries. because she is respecting his. but this means that they are keeping each other at arm's length even as they are falling head over heels for each other. this is a push–pull that will eventually backfire. and it does. because at the end of the day, when you don't share those pieces of yourself with someone who loves you, you aren't really trusting them with your heart. and this is the most important thing to do when you love. is trust that no matter what this person will have your back. reeve and emily have a lot of baggage and abandonment and trust issues to work out. there are a lot of past hurts that require healing. they do get there, and reading about it is well-worth it. **all i ask will publish on may 30, 2017. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/st. martin's press (swerve) in exchange for my honest review.
I adored this book! These characters were complex and engaging, the storyline is interesting, the writing is excellent and there is enough steam to keep things interesting but not take over the story. It's a nice easy read with a great flow to the story. On the surface Reeve and Emily seem to be from two different world but truly they are very much alike. Both proud, driven, and keeping secrets. What starts out as a one night stand quickly turns into more until those secrets start coming out. Will they tear them apart or will they be able to get past the deception? Don't miss this one. I highly recommend it.
“They served their country, now these National Guardsmen will find their Happily Ever Afters. Fall in love with All I Ask, the first sizzling standalone romance in Nicole McLaughlin's Man Enough series.” Is what it says about this series and book one has me hooked – I really want to read each and every one of the books! Reeve Miller had a rough childhood, went into the marines just out of high school, came home ten years later and set up a landscaping business with his best friend from high school. The business is doing well but he sometimes finds himself lonely. In the first chapter he goes to a dive bar with his friend, hits on an attractive woman he knows is high class and moneyed but he takes a chance. Emily Phillips, millionaire and owner of a large cinema chain, is in the mood to step out of her comfort zone, thinks Reeve is fantasy material and worth a one night stand and whatever it might provide. What is supposed to be a one and done event eventually becomes more but with secrets being kept by both of them there are hurdles to be leapt before they can get to a wonderful HFN/HEA ending. I loved Reeve and found him oh so desirable. Emily was smart and classy but also earthy. Together they were wonderful. They seemed to grow as a couple and as people while thoroughly enjoying their time together, well, most of the time. I also liked meeting the men I believe will be written about in future books of the series and look forward to read their stories, too. This is a book I thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommend. I would like to thank NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press – Swerve for the ARC. This is my honest review