New York Times bestselling sensation Susan Mallery returns to Fool's Gold, California, where it's true that sometimes you have to kiss a few frogs…
Former pro-football kicker Sam Ridge has notoriously bad luck with women—from cheaters to fame chasers. Still, the gorgeous brunette at the bar in Fool's Gold looks harmless—until she takes him home and he discovers a room devoted to securing a man, for life.
Dellina Hopkins never guessed that storing gowns from a friend's bridal boutique would chase away her first and only fling. After her parents died, she skipped her "wild youth" to raise her sisters. She doesn't want forever from Sam, but one night—all night—would've been nice.
His clean getaway gets messy when his firm hires Dellina to plan an event. As long hours lead to late nights, the two succumb to temptation again. Has Sam's luck finally changed? Or this time, will Dellina be the one to run?
About the Author
New York Times bestselling author Susan Mallery has entertained millions of readers with her witty and emotional stories about women. Publishers Weekly calls Susan’s prose “luscious and provocative,” and Booklist says “Novels don’t get much better than Mallery’s expert blend of emotional nuance, humor and superb storytelling.” Susan lives in Seattle with her husband and her tiny but intrepid toy poodle. Visit her at www.SusanMallery.com.
Read an Excerpt
"Returning to the scene of the crime?" Dellina Hopkins asked as she stared at the dark-haired man standing on her porch. She supposed the polite response to his presence was to invite him in. And she would
in a minute. But first she was going to make him work for it.
Sam Ridge, all six feet of dark-eyed, arrogant handsomeness, narrowed his gaze. "You're not going to make this easy, are you?" he asked.
Dellina smiled. "No. Would you, if you were me?"
He surprised her by flashing a grin. "No, I wouldn't."
"An honest man." She bumped the door open wider with her hip and stepped back to let him in. "It's a miracle."
He moved into the house. Dellina let the screen door slam into place, but left the thick wooden door open. It was summer in Fool's Gold, and plenty warm. The breeze would be nice. Plusand this was the part she would never admit to Samhaving the door open meant they weren't totally alone. Okay, they were alone, but it didn't feel so intimate. And based on what had happened the last time they'd been together in this house, that was a good thing.
Sam paused in the middle of her living room, as if not sure where to go. His head turned slightly and she had a feeling he was glancing down the halltoward her bedroom. No doubt remembering what had happened some five months ago.
Dellina wanted to say it hadn't been her faultthat everyone was allowed to be stupid on Valentine's Day. Or in her case, on Valentine's Day night. Only she had known exactly what she was doing and it had been as wonderful and disastrous as anyone could have imagined. Now both she and Sam were going to have to deal with the consequences.
He turned to face her, then motioned to the sofa. "We should probably have a seat."
"Will that make things easier for you?" she asked.
"If I say yes, will you sit?"
"Then yes. It makes things easier."
Dellina settled in one of the club chairs while Sam took the sofa.
He moved with controlled power. It was the former professional athlete thing, she thought, watching him sit down. At the risk of sounding like a groupie, she had firsthand knowledge that the man knew how to use his body. Of course, the last time she'd been in his presence, she hadn't been interested in sitting. Or talking. But then neither had he. They'd practically tumbled over each other in their race to her bedroom. He'd
Dellina pushed the very visceral memories away. Yes, Sam had been delicious in bed. But then things had gone downhill. She needed to remember what was important. He was here about a job. Not his unrequited lust for her. Based on how he'd been avoiding her for the past several months, when it came to her, he was plenty requited.
But he was also in a bit of a pickle.
The old-fashioned phrase made her want to smile. Yup, Sam needed her. Not in a delicious take me now kind of way, but for business. She was a party planner and he wanted to plan a really big business event. He was stuck and she was his way out. Sometimes, not often, but sometimes, circumstances went her way. So after five months of being able to ignore her and that single night, he'd been forced to face her. Was it so very wrong of her to enjoy the moment? She thought perhaps not.
She rested her hands flat on her thighs and looked at him. "How can I help you?"
His dark gaze settled on her face. "Really? You're not going to admit you know what any of this is about?"
She blinked deliberately, then opened her eyes wide. "When you made your appointment to speak with me, you didn't mention a subject." Of course she knew why he was here, but again, a little emotional torture seemed the right kind of payback.
A muscle twitched in his jaw. "All right. We'll play this your way. I'm Sam Ridge. I'm a partner at Score."
She grinned. "I know who you are, Sam. We don't have to pretend that much. Just tell me what you want and we'll move on from there."
He swore under his breath. "You're friends with Taryn. You've done work for her. How long are you going to punish me?"
He was right about Taryn. She and Dellina were friends and had worked together several times. Score, the PR firm in question, had moved to Fool's Gold just after the first of the year. Three of the partners were former NFL players and Taryn was the glue that held the company together.
"I haven't completely decided how long you should be punished," she admitted, wondering if batting her eyes again would be too over-the-top.
He sighed heavily. "Fine. We'll do this your way. Now that we've moved our business here, my partners and I want to have a big party for our clients. We've booked a hotel, but that's as far as the planning has gotten."
"A party," she breathed, and pressed her hand to her chest. "That sounds really nice."
In truth, being a neurosurgeon or the person who used to land the space shuttle probably made the top-ten list of jobs designed to give a person an ulcer. Sam would guess whoever was in charge of the ball dropping in Times Square on New Year's Eve probably had a few sleepless nights. But he would add that being a kicker for an NFL team had its moments of stress. When he'd been with the L.A. Stallions, he'd been responsible for twenty-six wins, including three during play-off games and one Super Bowl victory. He knew what it was like to have everyone watching him, both in person and on TV, and have his job performance critiqued endlessly.
He'd always known the outcome the instant his foot connected with the ball and he was famous for turning away and letting the sounds from the crowd tell him if he was right. He was used to pressure. He'd lived it and breathed it. But he'd never faced down anyone like Dellina Hopkins before, and the worst part about it was, she was right to give him a hard time.
Sam shook his head. "Okay," he said. "I give. I was wrong."
Her brown eyes twinkled. "Wrong about what?"
"That night. Leaving the way I did. It was just " He motioned toward the hallway. "Those dresses and that list. All of it. I'm not looking to get married."
"Neither am I."
"You're the one with a room full of wedding gowns."
Her full lips pressed together. Sam tried not to notice, but her mouth was one of the first things that had caught his attention, back on Valentine's Day.
He'd been staying at Ronan's Lodge for a few weeks, until escrow closed on his new place. He'd gone down to the bar for a drink only to realize it was Valentine's Day and the place was crawling with couples. As he'd recently sworn off womenagainhe'd started to turn around to go back to his room.
But before he could safely escape, he'd spotted Dellina. She'd been with friends. They were laughing and talking. No one had noticed him. She'd been pretty enough, but then she'd smiled and it was like getting kicked in the gutand he was a man who knew the power of a good kick. He'd sent over a tray of drinks for the table, they'd invited him to join them and an hour later he and Dellina had been having dinner together.
Later, when he'd kissed her, he'd discovered her mouth had been as exciting and intriguing as he'd hoped. She'd invited him home, he'd said yes and the rest had been incredible. Until he'd gotten up in the night and found himself in a nightmare.
He'd spent the past five months avoiding her. Tough to do in a town the size of Fool's Gold. The situation had been complicated by the fact that he'd enjoyed her company and had really wanted to see her again.
Now that his company needed her services, he'd been forced to suck it up. So here he was. Being tortured for sport. Kenny and Jack would point out there was no other reason to torment anyone.
Dellina rose. She was about five-five, with all the expected curves. When he saw her aroundbecause wanting to avoid her and being able to do it were two different thingsshe was usually in dresses or suits. Today she had on jeans and a frilly sleeveless thing that shouldn't have been sexy and yet was. Looking at her bare arms made him remember the rest of her bare, which was what had led to the problem between them in the first place.
Damn, he should never have gotten out of bed today. Or moved to Fool's Gold. Or joined Score for that matter. Or been born.
"Stand up," she said.
She walked up to him and held out her hand. "We're starting over. I'm Dellina Hopkins. I own a party planning business."
He didn't know which tack she was taking now, but figured he didn't have a lot of choice in the matter. Time was ticking and he was desperate.
"Sam Ridge. My company is a PR firm."
They shook hands. The second her fingers closed around his he felt heat. His gaze immediately settled on her full lips and he remembered he hadn't had nearly enough time with them. Or any of her. It was just once she'd gotten naked, he hadn't been sure which part of her to enjoy first. Then the nightmare had started.
She withdrew her hand and dropped it to her side.
"Well, Sam, like many small businesses, mine is based in my home. This house I rent has three bedrooms. I sleep in one and I work out of one and that leaves a spare bedroom. Follow me, please."
She led the way down the hall. He hesitated. He had a good idea where they were going and it was not a place any man would want to revisit. What it came down to was how much he needed her. And he needed her a lot.
She paused outside a closed bedroom door. The closed bedroom door.
"So my friend Isabel owns a store in town called Paper Moon," Dellina told him. "She sells wedding gowns. Last fall she decided to expand the business to include other kinds of clothing. She leased the space next door and started remodeling. As you can imagine, it was a big project. Because of the construction, she lost some of her storage space. Now, the average wedding gown is a pretty special item. So when one stores them, one can't simply leave them anywhere. They need to be safe and temperature controlled."
The pieces were starting to fall into place. Sam remembered getting up after making love with Dellina. He'd still been shell-shocked by the heat they'd generated and very much looking forward to a second act. Only on the way back from the bathroom, he'd made a wrong turn. Instead of walking back into her bedroom, he'd found himself staring at what looked like rows and rows of wedding gowns.
Worse, on the wall had been a dryerase board with a header that read Ten Ways to Get Him to Propose.
He had, understandably, freaked. He'd found his way back to her room, pulled on his clothes and fled. From then until now, he hadn't spoken a word to Dellina. He'd avoided her, he'd avoided anything to do with her and he'd never allowed himself to think about that night. Because if he did, he would find himself wanting her again. And with his luck with women, it was important to stay with those who were completely sane.
Which it appeared Dellina just might be.
She opened the door. He instinctively stiffened and saw they were still there. Racks holding covered white gowns. Like plastic aliens, hanging and shrouded, waiting to be returned to the mother ship.
"Isabel pays me to store her dresses," Dellina said. "I would do it for free, but she insists on a small monthly payment. These are not my dresses."
"Okay." He tried to adjust his collar only to realize that his shirt wasn't buttoned all the way and any pressure he felt was the result of being an idiot.
He cleared his throat. "So, ah, that clears up the problem with the wedding dresses. What about that?"
He pointed to the dryerase board. It still stated Ten Ways to Get Him to Propose, but there weren't any suggestions by the numbers.
Dellina sighed and sagged back against the wall. "It's Fayrene."
He raised his eyebrows.
"My younger sister," she clarified. "Fayrene met Ryan last spring. They fell in love, but she didn't want to get married because she wanted to focus on her career. Ryan was fine with that and they agreed to wait four years."
"So what's the problem?"
"She's changed her mind and wants him to propose now."
He waited, knowing there had to be more.
"Ryan isn't getting the message." Dellina rubbed her temples. "Probably because she hasn't told him. Fayrene doesn't want to tell Ryan she's changed her mind. That wouldn't be romantic. She wants him to guess on his own."
"That's not going to happen," Sam told her. "If Ryan loves Fayrene, he's going to respect her wishes no matter how much he wants to get married sooner. This isn't a winning strategy."
"Thanks for your insight. I happen to agree with everything you've said, but unless you want to take that up with Fayrene, you're telling the wrong person. My point is, the list isn't about me."
Dellina faced him. "Look, Sam, I know you have no reason to believe me, but I don't bring home guys I just met. Ever. Last Valentine's Day was the first time I'd done anything like that."
She kept talking but he stopped listening long enough to revel in the fact that she'd picked him for her first one-night stand. Okay, it wasn't up there with curing a disease, but still, nice to know. He returned his attention to her.
" and when you took off, I couldn't figure out what had happened. Then I remembered this room and I knew you'd freaked."
"Understandably," he added.
"Yes. It is a bit off-putting. But you could have asked me what was going on."
He thought about the other women who had been in his life. His family. If Dellina knew about all that, she wouldn't be expecting a rational response. But she didn't know any of it and he preferred it that way.
"You're right," he told her. "I should have asked. I reacted. It was late and we'd had sex and this room scared the hell out of me."
She smiled. "You run fast."
"I've had training."
Her smile widened, drawing his attention to her mouth. "You've done a good job avoiding me. Fool's Gold isn't that big."
"I noticed. You're in a lot of places. You didn't make it easy."
"I didn't want to," she admitted.
"Then you must have been happy to find out about the party."
Her expression turned impish. "A little."
Because getting the party together had fallen onto him. Normally he would have simply hired someone.
But the only party planner in town was Dellina. So he'd put off dealing with her as long as he could.
"Now that you've had your fun at my expense," he told her, "there's still a problem to solve."
"Right. Score is putting on a party for its best clients. Three days of fun and frolic."
"Frolic? Did you really just say that?"
She pushed off the wall and walked across the hall. "You know I did. Come on. Let's go talk about how much extra you're going to have to pay me to pull this all together in four weeks."
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The ending of the book had me in tears and makes me believe in romance. Susan Mallery knows how to write the epic ending for romance books each and every time so it feels very fresh. The supporting characters were quirky and fun to read as usual but my main problem was Sam and Dellina themselves. Sam was a great guy and Dellina was sweet but I didn't really feel the chemistry between them. I thought the conflict at the end was pretty contrived and then the resolution was so easy I didn't get the happy sigh of satisfaction I usually do when finishing a Fools Gold book. I couldn't believe how easy Dellina took him back. I also admit I missed that there wasn't the pity party with all the women crashing Dellina's pad with alcohol and food that we saw in past books as they console the heroine over the hero's stupid behavior. I have to state for the record--Sam parents are soo freakin funny!! I feel so bad for him. They do not have an off button. Just know you will wince and root for Sam to overcome some past issues with them to win back Dellina. Before We Kiss is a warm, friendly, and sometimes, hilarious read. Sam's parents are like no other....weird but lovable. And, of course, when Larissa needs help with one of her missions the town pulls together to help her out. The main characters, Sam and Dellina, had previously met and had some hot sex but Sam was scared away when he saw something that made him think Dellina was trying to hook herself a husband. He and his partners want to have a party for some of their clients and families and who better to help with that than party planner, Dellina. Very reluctantly Sam approaches Dellina, they clear the air about the husband hooking and the fun begins. As in all her Fool's Gold stories, Ms Mallery includes many of the characters from her previous books. Fayrene and Ryan are finally engaged, Taryn and Angel are getting closer to getting married, the mysterious, know-all see-all Mayor Marsha has done some more kind deeds which brings in a couple of new characters in the next Fool's Gold book.
5 Stars! Contemporary Romance Release: May 1, 2014 ABOUT THE BOOK: Former pro-football kicker Sam Ridge has notoriously bad luck with women – from cheaters to fame chasers. Still, the gorgeous brunette at the bar in Fool’s Gold looks harmless – until she takes him home and he discovers a room devoted to securing a man, for life. Dellina Hopkins never guessed that storing gowns from a friend’s bridal boutique would chase away her first and only fling. After her parents died, she skipped her “wild youth” to raise her sisters. She doesn’t want forever from Sam, but one night—all night—would’ve been nice. His clean getaway gets messy when his firm hires Dellina to plan an event. As long hours lead to late nights, the two succumb to temptation again. Has Sam’s luck finally changed? Or this time, will Dellina be the one to run? MY REVIEW: This. THIS! This book was great. It was full of laughs, chemistry, and the zing that makes you want more. Ms. Mallery hit it on the head with this one! Enter Sam, this previous pro-football player who has had his share of ups and downs, mostly down, with women. He’s got nothing but bad luck when it comes to having a successful relationship, and he no longer wants one. Dellina is the same way. She’s got no time for that. She is trying to run a successful business, and having to pair up with Sam, especially after a crazy night that got even crazier after he discovered her “bridal room” tests her self-control. I adored the supporting characters in this book, Sam’s mom especially. The entire thing was great to read. A great addition to the series, and a very lovable set of characters you’ll want to return to over and over again.
WOW!! Just WOW!! If you have ever been freaked out talking about sex with your parents....You need to read this book!!! If you LOVE to laugh while you read....You need to read this book!!! If you love romance....You need to read this book!! If you Love Susan Mallery's books ...You need to read this book!!
Could not put it down! I loved the mixture of love and laughter. This visit to Fool's Gold was very enjoyable and gave insight into some future characters, along with some teasers that you would only catch if you had read all of this series. The characters were easy to identify with and their "baggage" was understandable. Great summer read--can't wait for the next one!
I love this series. Susan doesn't disappoint, can't wait for the next one.
I'm going to say it again. There is a REASON Susan Mallery is one of my FAVORITE Authors!! From disastrous relationships in his past to her having raised her sisters there are obstacles in Sam and Delina's relationship. The one night stand they had months prior, when Sam awoke to a room full of wedding gowns and a "How to get him to propose." list on the wall scared him stupid and he ran away in the night. It takes a huge weekend business party to get them together again! The chemistry between these too is sweet to watch develop! Can't wait for Jack and Larissa's story next!
OMG! I would NOT want to have poor Sam’s parents as my own! They are hilariously embarrassing to be around because they don’t have any boundaries—they talk about orgasms at the family dinner table—can you imagine growing up with that?! Susan Mallery creates laugh-out-loud moments once again as she takes us back to Fool’s Gold and into Sam Ridge and Dellina Hopkins’ story. The couple has a history—a one night stand on Valentine’s Day. Sam freaked out after walking into a room of wedding dresses in Dellina’s house. He had avoided her for months afterwards, until he needed to hire her to plan a company party for Score. Their story of finally getting together is one of the best ones yet. Thank you to Susan Mallery for writing such good “brain candy” for this over-stressed teacher and single mother!
A great story of love, laughter, and taking a leap of faith. Fool's Gold is a magical town. I enjoyed the book and had a hard time putting it down. I kept wanting to see what happened next. Susan Mallery does a great job of weaving multiple storylines together. I'm still trying to figure Mayor Marsha out. It's amazing what she knows and can achieve. It makes me chuckle. Looking forward to reading the next book in the series.
Susan Mallery continues to create a wonderful town with the most amazing people. Sam has had nothing but bad luck when it comes to relationships. Dellina has raised her 2 sisters after her parents passed away. Neither is looking for a committed relationship or marriage but a one night stand and a working relationship lead to exactly that. They both must overcome their issues and find the love that is staring them in the face.
This is the 14th book that I have read in Susan Mallery's Fool's Gold series. This was not one of my favorites. I think Susan's writing is just as good and is continually getting better with each book. However, there were story lines in here that I did not like and I think were pushed a little too far. The parts of the story that I did enjoy in this book were when she was telling the actual love story of Sam and Dellina. Unlike some other readers I did not find these two characters boring. I really liked the pace in which she built their love story. I think it was realistic and it showed that if you were burned continuously in the past in the areas of love and marriage that it would take more time than usual to fall in love. In addition, I like how they continued on the story of Fayrene and Ryan as I liked to see how characters love stories continue after their book is done. I think this is something that Susan does very well. Lastly, I really enjoyed the humor that she stuck in through out the book. She really showed how strong the relationship was between Kenny, Sam and Jack. Now to the part of the book I did not enjoy was how overboard Susan went with the parents. I think she could have done more hinting than actually telling. I really felt like the book was over sexed at times with their story. I think it drew away from the well written love story of Dellina and Sam. All in all I think that this was a good book just not my favorite in the whole series. I am interested to read the next story of Larissa and Jack.
The slave is thrown at the gate of the castle.
Dellina Hopkins was raised in Fool's Gold until her parents died, & when she graduated HS, she got custody of her 2 younger sister & with Fool's Gold's help, raised them. Now both are in love & it's time for Dellina to unleash her inner BAD GIRL. Sam Ridge is cursed with bad luck with woman, for example his ex wife's tell all book & has a sex educator for a mom, who loves to talk, ask & yes, even demonstrate, in person or DVD, about all things sexual, but in the friends department he is loved, by his 2 football BFs & the crazy, gorgeous & extremely scary Tara, who he has a PR firm with. So what better way to be a BAD GIRL, than pick up the town's sexiest football star & have him hard & wanting. Sam loves this carefree & sexy Dellina, who rocked his sexual world, until he opens a door in her house & see it full of wedding dresses & a list of ways to get a proposal, so he freaks & flees. One problem thou, he needs her help to plan his PR firm's big weekend party, so he does what any scared wealth male does, offers her boat load of money & she explains that it's an "Only Professional Relationship", so off they go in their own mutual ignorance. With Sam around, her va-jay-jay is always getting happy, warm & swimming with wetness. With Dellina in his realm almost 24/7, he can't help pulling her into his arms & loving her mouth with his lips, tongue & occasional wandering hands. Soon all Fool's Gold Fairy GodtownNESS cast a love spell that either are immune too, the almost bunnies furry sacrifice, his mom shows up with all things sexual & uncomfortable, a unlocked bathroom door turned, a 57 kitties rescue, & even Sam's ex shows up to stomp on their little bloom of love. Will Sam embrace all the Fool's GoldNESS? Can Dellina let her GOOD GIRL have her man? Is Sam able to ever trust? Where can I get his Mom's sexually breathing exercise books? Ms. Mallery Fool's Gold series is such an amazing read with a town of such love, nosiness, kooky characters, dirty old women & the caring Mayor Marsha that I like to call their Fairy GodtownNESS. It a town I want to find & live forever. I burned many calories with this read, I HYPERVENTILATING with laughter, ROFL & I even squished my furry reading buddy (claws & all) once. Just when I think Ms. Mallery can't come up with more unique & uncommon goofiness, she pulls another out side-slipping, exhilarating & tickling tale of true love from her SPARKLY, SPUNKY & slightly SLEAZY mind! I must give Ms. Mallery my top score of 5 fingers up & 10 toes for this romance that made me smile, giggle, have shivers & quivers in my girlie parts & HYPERVENTILATE until I peed my panties! This review bought via my local library! f
Excellent addition to Fools Gold. Loved Sam and getting to know Jack, Kenny better. Sam's parents were a hoot! Dellina and her sisters are wonderful. Watching Dellina and Sam find themselves and each other was a joy. I loved this book
I give this a 4.5 star I totally Loved this book, what make it for me was the humor and Sam parents. I would so die if I had parents like his. This was a wonderful read with the one night stand they have months ago, leaving Sam running for his life when he make a wrong turn and walked into a room in the middle of the night in Dellina home and found it full of wedding dresses. In a small town like Fool’s Gold it isn’t easy to avoid one person, Sam did it for 5 months until he needed to hire a planner for a weekend party his company was giving. Dellina is a lovely lady who isn’t interested in finding Mr. Right she is just trying to make ends meet. She can’t forget the night her and Sam spent together. She didn’t understand why he ran and she wasn’t making it easy for him. Dellina parents died when she was young, she raised her sisters the best she could. She is loves her family and lives around them. Her one sister is a nut but a wonderful lady who needs help in finding her way and understanding men. Dellina is a strong women, knows what she wants and goes for it. She just doesn’t want a man right now but oh the things Sam made her feel, she wouldn’t mind feeling them again. Sam is an ex football player with many bad relationships he sure isn’t looking for anymore then a good time. When he saw all the wedding dresses he throws his clothes on and ran for his life. He has done his best not to run into Dellina but he can’t forget the one night they had which left him wanting more. He has to go to her to help plan his company party and sparks fly. They clear the air but that doesn’t stop him from wanting one more night with the beautiful sex Dellina. If life couldn’t get any worse he finds out his over sexed parents are coming to town and Dellina has signed them up for the party as guest speakers. Sam isn’t loving life to much, he finds his parents to be an embarrassment with their outspoken views on sex. You are going to love this installment of the town of Fool’s Gold. I have so enjoyed all the Fool’s Gold books but this one will keep you laughing. You will do a little head shaking along with OMG they didn’t oh yes they did. I have so enjoyed this series and the excitement these ex football players bring to this town when they decide to move their company to Fool’s Gold
Love this series