He may be at a romance readers' convention, but a naked woman in the elevator is not what horror writer Ryan Wheeler expects. Now he can't take his eyes off of her-and not just because he saw her naked, though her luscious curves certainly aren't helping the matter. She's beautiful, funny, snarky...and a complication he doesn't need.
Running into her teen heartthrob while naked wasn't exactly part of romance novelist Andi Palmer's weekend plans. Worse, he doesn't recognize her and gives her a fake name. Years ago, he shot her down in the worst possible way, and now this? It's time for a little down-and-dirty revenge.
Ryan's more than a little turned on by this good girl who wants to be bad. But things aren't what they seem, and the secrets they're keeping from one another might just end this sexy little rendezvous before it ever begins...
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.39(d)|
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Betting on the Wrong Brother
A What Happens in Vegas Story
By Cathryn Fox, Candace Havens
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2016 Cathryn Fox
All rights reserved.
First, a six-hour turbulent flight, then, a suicidal cab drive, and now this.
Romance novelist Andi Palmer repeatedly jabbed the open button on the control panel of the malfunctioning elevator. She'd given up on the phone that had clearly been installed for decorative purposes only. Where the hell was maintenance and when was the last time this thing had been serviced, anyway? She looked for a certification sticker but couldn't read the small print in the dim light. Dammit. If it didn't start up soon, she was going to be late for her editor's appointment. She tapped her foot on the tiled floor and glanced at her watch. Not only was she about to be late for her meeting, the parties would be well under way by now. The male cover model contest was a romance writer's convention must, and if she didn't get out of the eight by eight hot box she was trapped in, she was sure to miss it.
The power flickered on and off, the only illumination coming from the emergency light overhead. She'd been trapped for fifteen minutes, and the air was already growing stagnant, making it feel like she'd been stuck for hours. She leaned against the mirrored wall and glanced around the small, dimly lit space as she punched the button again. At least she wasn't the claustrophobic type.
A beat passed, then the florescent lights flickered on. Somewhere overhead a fan kicked in. Hallelujah. She fist pumped the air and did the Snoopy dance around the small space. Maybe she'd make it to her meeting in time after all.
The light dimmed again and Andi drew in a breath and held it. While she'd never been afraid of small spaces, the thought of being trapped in the dark gave her a moment's panic. A sound came from overhead, similar to the grinding of gears and the floor bounced beneath her feet and then ... nothing.
Great, just great.
She leaned against the back mirror and drummed her newly manicured nails on the rail. Rumor had it the hotel was haunted. She blinked against the dimness and hugged herself as she searched the corners. Yeah, she'd seen The Grudge. While she might not be afraid of confined places, demons scared the hell out of her. Was some angry spirit getting its kicks out of distressing the harried New Yorker? More than likely. For all she knew, a hoard of ghosts were laughing their transparent asses off right now. Or getting ready to eat her face off.
Her gaze darted around the cubicle. "I'm tougher than I look," she warned, just in case. She wasn't. Not really.
She pressed the button for every floor again. Nothing. Come on. Open already. A second passed, then two. Okay, enough of this. She needed to stop letting her imagination run amuck and do something constructive ... like change for her meeting. A shower would have been nice, sure, but thanks to the broken elevator, the option of getting clean was currently off the table.
She stripped off her T-shirt and yoga pants, and wearing only her bra and big comfy underwear, dropped to her knees. She unzipped her suitcase and took out the silk blouse and pencil skirt she'd packed for her meeting. The elevator hiccupped, jumping floors again, and she stilled. Breath held, she gripped the edges of her suitcase, and waited to see what would happen next. Truthfully, after willing the damn box to move for the last fifteen minutes, the last thing she needed was for the doors to open and expose her half naked body to the entire hotel. They say bad things come in threes — although she had no idea who they were. Nevertheless, hadn't she gotten her three out of the way already? Or rather four, if she was counting her roommate's recent engagement and how once she and her fiancé had found a place it would leave Andi alone and unable to afford the rent. With all that going on, surely nothing bad could happen now.
The lights brightened and she winced as she caught her reflection in the mirror. Good Lord, she was the one who looked like she was straight out of a horror movie. One look at her and the demons would be the ones running for cover. Blinking against the brightness, she jumped to her feet, and worked to smooth the frizz she once called hair. Oh, how this humid Nevada weather loved her fine locks. One of the many reasons she left her small hometown in Texas for New York at twenty-one.
Clothes in hand, she fixed the straps on her bra then put her skirt between her knees to hold it. She shook the wrinkles out of her blouse and tossed it around her shoulder. The warm silk wisped over her bare arms as she hurried in to it.
A noise sounded, a ping of sorts, and her gaze darted toward the doors. A sliver of light appeared between the metal panels. No. No. No. One leg in the skirt, she backed into the corner as the doors gave a jerk and then parted like the red sea. Holy hell. This was so not a good time for her luck to change.
With the doors fully open it suddenly felt like every light at the Yankee stadium was aimed her way as she took in the huge, handsome figure blocking the entrance to the elevator. She froze in place, held her breath, didn't so much as blink an eye as the one man, the only man, she'd ever loved stepped onto the elevator. Head down, he turned his back to her, his attention riveted on his phone.
What the hell was Nolan Wheeler doing in Vegas?
The fast beating of her heart forced blood into her cheeks, and they burned from the rush. So much for nothing else bad happening. Christ on a cracker. This wasn't just bad. Bad had nothing on this. This was ... mortifying. The worst possible thing that could have happened to her. Bad things come in three, my ass! Whoever they were, she was going to hunt them down personally and tear them a new one.
He pressed a button on the panel and shifted his stance. The light from his phone lit the hard lines of his square jaw — his beautiful, romance novel-inspiring square jaw. Le sigh ... She hadn't seen him in years, but that didn't stop her heart from making that familiar pitter-patter sound it always did when she was near him.
He angled his head, giving her a better view of his face, then laughed at something he'd read. Nolan. She remembered that laugh, remembered the familiar sting of it when he snickered in her face all those years ago. She fisted her fingers, hating herself for wanting to touch that sexy stubble shadowing his cheeks, to turn him around and make him finally see her as a woman worthy of his attention.
Wait. He hadn't noticed her. He hadn't noticed her! Hmph. Typical Nolan behavior. Then again, even if he had, he likely wouldn't have recognized her anyway. Not since she'd lost a hundred pounds, ditched the glasses, and grew out of the braces. She was no longer that overweight teen, known as the fat, nerdy bookworm who had little to no friends. Yeah, on the outside she looked like a totally different person. Inside, however, she was still that self-conscious girl who was destined to be alone forever. If given a chance, that's the girl he'd recognize in a blink of an eye — and likely laugh at again.
Anger and humiliation rose up inside her when she thought back to that day.
Young, inexperienced, and crushing big time on Nolan, Andi had taken the flirtatious attention he'd given her to heart. In her teenaged daydreams, he'd swept her into his arms and pledged his undying love. Never in her naïve fantasies had she expected to have her heart handed back, crushed and broken.
Wounded to the bone, she'd taken the painful experience and strived to make it work for her. A healthy diet and exercise program helped her to shed the unwanted pounds. A thinner body combined with braces and contacts completely changed her outer appearance. Now the man himself stood in front of her, once again reminding her she was still that awkward girl no one wanted.
Nolan deserved payback for mocking the fat girl who tried to seduce him.
At least he hadn't told her older brother what she'd done. Chase and Nolan were tight back in the day, which was how she'd met the man who'd been so kind to his best friend's frumpy kid sister — so much so that she'd thought he'd liked her, like, really, really liked her.
She'd thought wrong.
Quiet as a church mouse, her hands slowly moved to her buttons. Maybe she could get dressed before he turned.
His eyes latched on hers. Then grew wider. The ocean blue turbulence she'd once lost herself in dropped to her cleavage, then lower, over her midriff to her panties. Was that a smirk? Bastard. Okay, so apparently bad things came in fives.
"Uh, sorry." His gaze shot back up and he cleared his throat. He set his duffle bag on the floor and shook his phone like it was some pithy excuse. "I didn't realize you were there."
Andi's molars snapped together. Of course he didn't. Why would he? After all, when it came right down to it, she was insignificant, wasn't she? Determined to keep the upper hand on this less than thrilling encounter, she unclamped her teeth and held her finger up, drawing a circle in the air. "You think you could turn around?"
"Oh. Yeah, sure."
She stood tall — well as tall as she could at five foot five — and planted her hands on her hips like getting changed in an elevator was something she did every day. "Today?"
He smiled, flashing perfect white teeth. "Right," he said, his friendly smile shifting to apologetic. Instead of turning, his glance flicked over her a second time. A gentleman, he was not. His lips twitched, the look on his face morphing into an appreciative smile. Score one for the granny panties. Still, it didn't make her hate him any less.
He leaned to his left just as the elevator jumped again. It came to an abrupt halt and she lurched forward. Her body hit Nolan's and the two toppled like bowling pins. A breathless, undignified oomph rushed from her lips as she landed on top of the main reason she'd left their hometown of Cedar Point eight years ago. The motor kicked in again, and the box continued to bob up and down. Her body moved right along with it, bouncing on top of Nolan like a goddamn Mexican jumping bean. Her tote bag flipped over, and her agenda and papers spilled onto the floor.
His arm slipped around her back, holding her to him as their groins banged. Bangity, bang, bang. She pinched her eyes shut. Please doors do not open again. Not because she was enjoying the ride. She wasn't ... she didn't think. But because if they opened now, anyone standing on the other side would definitely get the wrong idea. Honestly, how could they not? They would be the prime photo op, posted and shared on social media sites. She'd never be able to face her friends, fans, industry professionals, if they thought she was dry humping some former crush on the elevator floor.
She braced her hands on the floor and held on, eyes closed. If the hydraulics let go this second and the elevator crashed to the basement, that'd be A-okay in her books. Breathe, Andi, just breathe. She tried not to think about the well built, athletic man beneath her, or how he'd just splayed his hand over the small of her back, or how good his fingers felt pressing into her flesh. His fingers stretched downward, and another rough jolt caused them to slip under the band of her panties. Was that ...? Had he just lifted his hips? Twice?
She wiggled to free his hands from her panties, and when she did they slid over her back. Her flesh burned where he touched, a fine shiver making her hyperaware of her reaction to him. The elevator finally stopped moving, but she held back a hallelujah. She wasn't going to make that premature mistake again.
Nolan shifted, his warm, strong hand sliding farther up her back. Her face rested against his neck, and she breathed in his scent. It was different than before, more sophisticated, refined, and she cursed her weak, sex-deprived body for responding to it. She breathed in again, and sorted through the tones. She had no idea what kind of cologne he was wearing, or even if he was wearing any, but his aroma was manly and provocative and probably held magical properties. Oh yeah, one sniff of him and poof, no more panties.
Hands on the floor, she started to move. How the hell was she going to get up if he continued to hold her like that? She wigged, and shifted, desperate to put some well-needed distance between them. She hated this man. Hated how her traitorous body was reacting to him all these years later. Damn you, libido. Damn you, Nolan.
"You might want to stop that."
"Stop what?" She shifted again, trying to get up without having to straddle him, then instantly stopped. Wait! Was that ...? "Oh."
"Yeah ... oh."
She pushed up, but all she managed to do was press her groin harder against his erection. And oh, what an erection it was: hard, long, thick ... ugh. Cripes, she'd just bet there was nothing premature about him. He could probably go for days on end.
Get it together, Andi!
He groaned, but when her eyes met his it wasn't agony she caught there. She tried to push away. "I need to get off."
"Um ... yeah."
Shit! She didn't know whether to laugh or cry. "I mean ..." Oh, Jesus. "I need to get off you."
"Here let me."
His callused fingers slid down her arms and closed over her wrists. He gave a little tug, pulling them away from the floor, and she collapsed back on top of him. He pressed her arms to her sides, and rolled, until he was on top of her, his big body pinning her down hard. If the elevator never moved again, and she died like this, that too would be A-okay in her books.
Her skin burned, sizzled like bacon in a hot pan. His scent, his looks, his mere presence did the most delicious things to her insides, but she'd rather give up her weekly brownie than let him know it. Better for him to think she was mad than aroused.
Don't sound breathless. Don't sound breathless.
"This is your idea of helping?" she snapped, sounding breathless. Shit!
"No, this is."
He pushed to his knees, hovered there, looking down at her for a moment before rolling effortlessly to his feet. Dammed if the view from her vantage point wasn't a nice one. As his presence swallowed up the small space, her gaze started at his ankles and traveled upward, stopping when she reached his crotch region. Oh, how those worn jeans hugged his body so nicely. Whoever said good things come in small packages wasn't talking about Nolan. Her nipples tightened, making her fully aware of the embarrassing state she was in, as she lay half naked at his feet. That still didn't stop her from admiring the view in a very unlady like fashion, undressing him with her eyes, until his jeans and T-shirt were a thing of the past — much like her dignity. But, my how he'd grown. Gone was the thin teenage boy she'd fallen for. In his place was a man. One who oozed sex in a way the young, high school boy never had.
Her glance moved back to his face, to the smirk that told her he knew she'd been checking him out. Damn him.
She came up on her elbows and made a move to get up, but he bent forward, grabbed her arms and hauled her to her feet. Her body bumped his, and a slow, unsteady breath left his lungs. His warm, sweet scent washed over her face, and her lips were so close to his, all she had to do was lean forward if she wanted to kiss. Which she didn't ... she didn't think.
"Thanks," she mumbled.
"Ryan," he said.
"What?" His boyish grin nearly melted her panties, and that was quite the feat considering how big they were. Shit, she really needed to get dressed and out of there before she did something stupid. Again.
"After what we've just been through we should at least know each other's names. I mean we practically —"
She held her hand up, palm out to stop him. "I know what we practically did."
"So, I'm Ryan and you are ..."
The second he said his name again, it hit her. Her mouth dropped open and she pushed his chest to get away from him. He stumbled backward until he hit the wall. What the hell? Why would he give her a fake name? This was Nolan Wheeler, former bad boy turned pilot. She'd bet her brownie on it. That's how sure she was.
Excerpted from Betting on the Wrong Brother by Cathryn Fox, Candace Havens. Copyright © 2016 Cathryn Fox. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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