Jessica Montgomery has always lived by three simple rules: stay calm, stay professional, stay in control. Working tirelessly to make it into the executive ranks of her family's business, her dream job of CFO is within reach-if she can convince one stubborn and sexy restaurateur to take her offer and manage Montgomery Industries' flagship restaurant in Atlanta.
On the surface Logan Wilde is all good-old-boy charm and humor, but he can't seem to outrun the hell-raising reputation of his high school years. Although he has thought about leaving his hometown in Falcon, Alabama, he has grown to love the town, his restaurant, and his part-time gig coaching the football team.
Jessica estimates it will take a week tops to get Logan Wilde's signature on her generous offer, but their first meeting is anything but professional. Logan shreds Jessica's control and unleashes a passion she didn't know existed even as a deeper connection between them takes root. When her family's manipulations threaten to tear them apart, Jessica has to decide whether her dream is really the CFO job or the man who has unselfishly offered his love.
About the Author
An award-winning author, Laura Trentham was born and raised in a small town in Tennessee. Although, she loved English and reading in high school, she was convinced an English degree equated to starvation. She chose the next most logical major—Chemical Engineering—and worked in a hard hat and steel toed boots for several years.
She writes sexy, small town contemporaries and smoking hot Regency historicals. The first two books of her Falcon Football series were named Top Picks by RT Book Reviews magazine. Then He Kissed Me, a Cottonbloom novel, was named as one of Amazon’s best romances of 2016. When not lost in a cozy Southern town or Regency England, she's shuttling kids to soccer, helping with homework, and avoiding the Mt. Everest-sized pile of laundry that is almost as big as the to-be-read pile of books on her nightstand.
Read an Excerpt
Caught Up in the Touch
By Laura Trentham
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2015 Laura Trentham
All rights reserved.
Richmond, Virginia, August
"I want Logan Wilde in the Atlanta restaurant as our lead chef as soon as humanly possible. I don't care how, but make sure you bag him one way or another. Let's face it, darling, you have a couple of weapons no one else at the table is in possession of." Reginald Montgomery made vague hand motions before sliding a manila folder across the table.
Uncomfortable male laughter pinged around the conference table.
Jessica Montgomery wasn't laughing. In fact, she had difficulty maintaining the cutting stare she'd perfected since moving into the executive tier of the family company. Her father leaned back in his plush leather office chair, while everyone else sat in straight-back wooden chairs like low-class serfs.
The challenge in his eyes bored a hole through her chest. To control the urge to throw the file in her father's face and storm out, she imagined an anvil falling through the ceiling and landing on him in the manner of Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner. Unfortunately for her, she felt like the unlucky, slightly pathetic coyote.
Silence stretched. Chairs filled with Montgomery Industries executives squeaked. She frantically searched for a witty retort. Her mouth opened, but nothing emerged. No doubt, the perfect comeback would pop into her head ten minutes from now. The take-no-prisoners shark behind Reginald Montgomery's good-old-boy façade bared his teeth and swept his gaze around the table.
"Of course, Jessica knows I'm joking. My girl learned how to manipulate and negotiate from me." He pointed in her direction. "You have two weeks to get the contract signed. Now, Potter, give me the rundown on our DC restaurant."
A bead of sweat trickled out of Potter's thinning hairline, and he brushed it away with the back of his hand. Montgomery's lips twitched. He enjoyed making his employees squirm, his daughter included. She had a suspicion her father's favorite hobby as a child was catching butterflies and pinning their wings to cardboard. He'd probably delighted in the insects' struggles against his superiority. Come to think of it, wasn't that the mark of a sociopath?
Normally any mention of Montgomery Industries financials had her sitting up and taking notes. After all, she needed to know the bottom line down to the decimal point if she was to earn the promotion to CFO. Potter's voice droned between her father's questions.
Vaguely listening to her father put Potter through his version of the Spanish Inquisition, she flipped open the portfolio on Logan Wilde. An article from a recent issue of Southern Living was on top. The grainy black-and-white picture showed a man in light pants and a dark button-down directing traffic in a spacious stainless steel kitchen. The frenetic energy of a typical restaurant kitchen came through in the picture, but she couldn't tell much about the man except that he was trim, had short dark hair, and a clean-cut profile.
Southern Living had deemed Logan Wilde an emerging talent in nouveau Southern cuisine. No culinary school was listed. An oversight, or was he self-taught? His restaurant, Adaline's, was located in Falcon, Alabama, with a population of 10,000. How did such a small town support high-end dining?
The article went on to gush about his intense eyes and dedication to his grandmother's memory. Seeing that the writer bequeathed him the title of sexiest restaurateur in America, Jessica checked the byline and wasn't shocked to see a woman's name. She rolled her eyes and snorted.
"Did you have something to add, Jessica?" her father asked.
She popped her head up to find everyone looking in her direction. Potter's eyes begged her to put him out of his misery. She leaned over the table and stared at her father. "Actually, yes. Potter's initial figures match up perfectly with the estimates we've received. You're the one who insisted he reduce by twenty percent to satisfy investors, so it's no surprise we're over budget. And, it's not Potter's fault."
Someone to her right gasped. She didn't turn to see who, but everyone between her and her father shrank back in their chairs, out of firing range.
"Meeting's over," he murmured.
Chairs scraped, papers rustled, conversations buzzed. Jessica gathered the folder and was half-standing when her father said, "Stay, Jessica."
Feeling a little like a dog, she plopped back into her seat. If only she could play dead.
Avoiding her father's glare, Jessica opened the portfolio and flipped the thin magazine page over, but the back featured a restaurant in Charleston. The next sheet detailed the financial offers her father had already made. As expected, the first one had been ridiculously low. The next one had been higher, but it was rejected over the phone. Montgomery's final offer was substantial enough to have her eyebrows up, but it too had been rejected, this time in person.
Jessica's snigger was mean-spirited and satisfying. Her father must have been livid. The conference room door swung shut, leaving them alone. A small amount of glee she couldn't suppress lilted her words. "He rejected you."
"No. He rejected my offer. You're going to head to Alabama to sweeten the deal."
"You seriously expect me to ... what? Flirt and coo while I slide him the contract? He'll be so distracted by my beauty" — she shot the word with sarcasm — "that he won't know what he's signing? Please."
"Don't underestimate yourself."
Her chest expanded with a deep breath, her lips curled into a small smile. Was this actual approval?
"You aren't the beauty queen your sister is, but when you fix yourself up, you're not bad."
The pseudo-compliment gouged the wound in her heart a fraction deeper. She hated that her father still had such power over her. Her foot tapped with suppressed energy. "He doesn't want the job. Find someone who does. It won't be difficult with the kind of money you're offering."
"Not an option. I need him."
She tried to catch her father's eyes, but he kept his gaze down, picking lint off the sleeve of his jacket. "Need," not "want." A faint alarm sounded in her head, but she didn't have time to pinpoint why. Her father went on the offensive.
"I don't appreciate you calling into question my decisions during meetings, Jessica."
"Well, I don't appreciate you making jokes at my expense. How am I to gain respect when you belittle me?"
"You need to toughen up, girl. This is a hard business run by men. If you can't take a little joke, maybe you're not cut out for the boardroom. Maybe you belong in a smaller kitchen." His eyebrows rose along with the corners of his mouth. He'd thrown out the bait he knew she couldn't resist.
"We aren't living in the fifties, old man. There are women CEOs and world leaders ... what are you going to do if our next president is a woman? Tell her to bring you some coffee?"
"For a start. If you want to sit on Montgomery's board as CFO, you have to prove you're the best person for the job. I sure as shit won't have anyone accusing me of nepotism."
"No, just harassment. Of your own daughter, I might add. If I manage to get Logan Wilde to accept this job, everyone will assume I slept with him. And for goodness sake, quit calling me 'girl' at work. You are such a —"
A slew of epitaphs rolled through her head. Maybe he'd respect her more if she let them fly. But while her father had taught her how to make deals and negotiate, her mother had insisted she be schooled in the vanishing art of being a lady, which included refraining from vulgarities.
"— pig," she finished weakly.
A banked anger flared in her father's cheeks. He'd only been toying with her like a trapped butterfly. Now that he decided to rip her wings off, his dark-gray eyes went from hot coal to hard slate. "Let me put this another way. Get Logan Wilde to accept my offer or the CFO job is off the table for the foreseeable future."
"That's not fair!" The whine of her voice tossed her back into the trials of her childhood. The high heel of her shoe tapped against the wooden leg of her chair, and she slumped forward. Darn it, how did things degenerate?
The calm voice of her therapist tried to insert itself into the tornado of her resentment. Deep breaths; let logic rule, not emotions; stay in control. The words swirled and retreated out of reach.
"Life isn't fair, it's work, girl. The only way you're moving up in my company is if you make deals. So get to making one. Nearest airport is Birmingham. I expect a report by the end of the week. Or sooner."
Jessica's mouth opened to offer an argument, or maybe an insult. She wasn't sure what she'd been ready to say. Her father stalked out the door, leaving her sitting in the conference room alone.
It didn't matter that she was twenty-nine, a 4.0 graduate of the Wharton School of Business, and the youngest executive at Montgomery Industries, childish tears sprang to her eyes. She didn't know if she was madder at her father or at her own lack of gumption. Maybe he was right. Maybe she didn't deserve to be CFO. Maybe she wasn't tough enough.
Muffled laughter came from the hallway. Two men from the meeting walked by with Styrofoam cups of coffee. Both glanced in her direction. Were they laughing at her?
She flipped back to the magazine article, keeping her eyes down. A few blinks cleared her vision, and with several deep, practiced breaths, a calm, icy control descended, smothering her out-of-control emotions.
Logan Wilde had obviously charmed the pants off the writer — maybe literally — which hinted at a smarmy businessman interested in publicity, yet he'd turned her father's generous offer down. Reginald Montgomery was both intimidating and persuasive, often at the same time. A potent combination. How was she to succeed where her father had failed?
Yet, if she did succeed, the dream job he continuously dangled just out of reach would be hers. Her pride urged her to march into her father's office and tell him to shove it where the sun don't shine, but her logical side applied the salve.
If she quit Montgomery Industries, it would take years in another company to reach the position she currently held. Her mother would throw an epic hissy fit before pointing out the two pounds Jessica had gained since the last time she'd been home. Her sister Caroline would shake her head so the hundred-dollar blowout to her perfectly honeyed blonde hair showed to its full advantage while still conveying disappointment. Not a hint of family scandal could attach itself to the Montgomery name while Caroline's husband Mitch made his bid for the Senate.
Her thoughts moved forward. Falcon was two hours from Birmingham. She'd drive from Richmond and dip through the red-clay plains of southern Georgia, where she'd spent part of her childhood summers. She'd visit her ma-maw's old house and take some flowers to her grave. Lord knows, her father never bothered to pay his respects to his mother. Then she'd head to Falcon, Alabama, and do her best to convince Logan Wilde his dream job awaited in Atlanta.
She would play her father's games, but she'd play her way.
* * *
"Sorry I had to call you back early, Coach. That stove is a beast. I was afraid I'd screw things up if I tried to fix it."
"I'm not your coach when you're working at Adaline's. You can call me Logan."
Scott Larkin, one of the Falcon football rising-senior linemen, gave him a shy smile, his gaze dropping to fill a glass with ice from behind the bar. "It's weird to call a grown-up by their first name."
Damn. Was that what he was now? A grown-up? He supposed at thirty-one, he finally qualified. "Mr. Wilde, if you insist, but I'm fine with Logan."
Logan killed the sweet tea Scott slid down the bar in half a dozen swallows. He tapped his glass, and the boy refilled it from a sweating pitcher. Rubbing a bar towel over his sweat-streaked face and down the two-week's growth of beard, he smeared grease over the white cotton.
Damn, August in Alabama felt like the pits of hell. Another trickle of sweat snaked from his temple into his beard, and he scratched at the coarse hair running down his neck. Strike that, continue south past the pits of hell and keep on going until the heat incinerated you to ash and the humidity clogged your lungs, making each breath an effort. That was August in Alabama during a heat wave.
"How'd you make out?" Scott asked.
"Unearthed four sounders of wild pigs. Less than last summer. I think we're finally getting the upper hand." He'd spent over a week in solitude, wandering from camp to camp, hunting the ferocious pigs that had invaded the river bottoms. He'd been alone, but not lonely.
The rhythm of the woods was written in Logan's DNA, and he moved instinctively, cutting through the forest, leaving man-made trails behind. Once he'd lost his human scent, he'd almost become a wild creature himself. The wind spoke to him through the trees, and he'd come across deer, raccoons, squirrels, and birds. A copperhead slithered across his path, and he'd only tipped his hat in deference to its dominance.
Eventually, reality intruded. Robbie Dalton, his cousin-in-law and Falcon's head football coach, had joined him for the last two days of the hunt. The football season was starting soon, and their quiet hunting time was interspersed with discussions of lineups and strategy.
Scott wiped down the bar, the lemony fresh scent of cleaner filling the air. The boy's arm flexed. Thin silvery streaks marred the tan of his biceps. Stretch marks? Logan made a closer examination of his lineman. As the football team's strength and conditioning coach, Logan paid attention to which boys had yet to hit puberty and which could handle the extra reps and weight that came with unleashed testosterone.
Scott had been gangly and knock-kneed last spring. Now suddenly he had gained a man's muscles, and a few inches in height. His dad Ben, a former Falcon linebacker who'd played for Alabama, had probably pushed some crazy workout regimen on the kid. Lord save him from well-meaning helicopter parents living vicariously through their offspring.
"What have you been doing this summer, Scott? You've gained some bulk."
Instead of flexing and showing off, Scott pulled the sleeve of his short-sleeve broadcloth shirt down. "Lifting some in the garage and running is all."
Logic told him the kid had hit a growth spurt, yet niggling unease fluttered in his stomach.
The back door swung open and Brian, his bartender-manager, strode through. A crate of highball glasses tinkled with his every step. Logan called out to him, "I'm going to have to head home to shower. I don't want to turn anyone's stomach. Everything set for the dinner opening?"
"You know it, boss. Everything's good to go now that our stove crisis has been averted. The new menu is going over well with the staff and the customers." Brian grinned and unloaded glasses from behind the bar. It was Saturday and the dinner crowd would be heavy. Weekends attracted diners from bigger cities who came for the quaint atmosphere.
"Glad to hear it."
Brian returned to the kitchen, and Scott scuttled behind. The rattle of bottles and the clang of a dolly broke the too-brief silence. "Logan! Damn, what's up, buddy? Haven't seen you for a coon's age."
Logan forced a smile for his old high-school friend. "Good to see you, Justin. Didn't know you delivered for Tom."
"First week." He pulled a box of top shelf liquor off the dolly. "You want me to unpack it?"
"Slide the boxes behind the bar. Brian or I will stock them. Thanks."
Justin emptied the dolly, but instead of leaving, he draped an arm over the top. "Dude, big party tonight in Wayne's garage. Why don't you come over? Like old times."
The nostalgic edge in Justin's voice turned Logan's stomach. Hanging out in friends' basements or garages drinking himself to oblivion, smoking weed, doing the occasional line of coke had been the norm in high school. Those were days Logan didn't care to relive.
Instead of advising Justin to grow up and get a life, he only said, "Got to work tonight."
Justin's smile was guileless. "That's right. I forgot you're a famous chef now."
The spread in Southern Living had benefited the whole town, and Adaline's saw a bump in business whenever he switched up the menu. Out-of-towners meant increased tourism dollars for everyone. Logan had gone from being the town fuck-up to one of its saviors. The irony never failed to amuse him.
Yet for all his recent success, someone always brought up his past. The drifting, the drugs, the drinking. Usually in a "look how far you've come" sort of speech, but sometimes given in a "we're waiting for you to screw the pooch again" tone. He loved Falcon, but the offhand, sometimes teasing remarks pissed him off and made him feel restless and boxed in. He hid it all behind a smile.
"Catch you later," Justin said on his way through the kitchen door.
Logan was alone. His smile faded, and he turned on the stool, leaning back and resting his elbows against the mahogany bar. Blessed cool air poured out of the ceiling vent and offered some relief. A quick wash in the river had helped eliminate the grime of two weeks living in the woods, but he'd gotten dirty and sweaty again fixing the temperamental high-end stove.
Excerpted from Caught Up in the Touch by Laura Trentham. Copyright © 2015 Laura Trentham. 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
I have fallen in love with this series! Bad boy/Country Boys where do I find me one?! These stories are humorous, emotional, and romantic goodness!! Even though these are romances I didn't find to completely ridiculous in the plot like a lot of books these days. Very relatable and you can tell a lot of love and thought went into each character. Highly recommend!
This was a new author to me and therefore I am happy to state the following. This book is fun to read ! Some of the dialogues are just hilarious and I could not stop laughing. I really don’t want to spoil the story by telling too much so I’d just like to encourage everybody that is considering to read it at this moment. Go ahead! The plot is well developed and the writing is nice and easy so it will be a pleasant journey. And I will take a look at the first part of this series ASAP as well.
Loved this one! A great small town romance that is well written with characters that are entertaining and captivating. Logan is pure perfection. Humble, kind, and with an inner strength that guides him through everything life throws at him. Jessica takes a little time to warm up to but once she lets her guard down and we get to know her, we understand why she is the way she is. I could feel the chemistry between these two and I enjoyed watching their relationship evolve. I highly recommend this one to anyone who loves a good romance!
ARC copy requested through NetGalley and kindly provided by St. Martins Publishing in exchange for a honest review. One paragraph in and I was immediately pulled back into the small town of Falcon, and so happy for the opportunity to revisit some familiar residents, and also meet a few new ones too. The author does an amazing job of developing very relatable and likable characters that you can't help but get attached to. I have liked Logan since the first installment of the series, and it was great to see him find his happy ending after all he has endured, and I think Jessie was the perfect woman for him! I thoroughly enjoyed reading their story, and I plan to revisit Falcon just as soon as the next installment of the series is released! This series is definitely one of the best literary discoveries I have made in a while, and I cannot wait to see what the author has in store for the next book!
I’ll be honest I didn’t think I’d like this one very much. There was a little preview of the first chapter in the back of Slow and Steady Rush and I just knew Jessica was going to be one of those women that I didn’t like. But I loved Logan enough that I was willing to take her on to get his story …. y’all that teaser didn’t do her justice AT ALL. She’s so wonderfully neurotic and I loved every single minute of this book! Jessica has so many hang-ups thanks to her parents. She’s never really had a chance to be normal or even to be loved & supported like she needed. Except by her grandmother. And thanks to Logan, and a forced stay in Falcon, she’s starting to remember those wonderful summers and what it felt like to be cared for. It’s so very sweet to watch her come into herself and find her way. And Logan … I knew I’d love that boy from the moment we met him in the first book and he doesn’t fail me. He’s caring and smart and giving. He’s also sexy as all get out and when he turns on that Southern charm with Jessica she has no hope. And neither do you :) I love that Trentham brings her readers a journey piece to go with the romance. We get to watch them fall in love and grow and find a path that works for them both. It’s funny and touching and sexy and irresistible. And I can’t wait to see what she has in mind for the next story. We get some hints here and I just know it is going to be another sure-fire hit!
Jessica and Logan each have something to prove. Jessica is intent on obtaining her place in the family business and Logan wants to be seen as more than an upstart jock. Hard to do in a town where everyone knows your name and your reputation proceeds you. Logan was every woman's dream. A handsome, caring and funny man wanting to do the right thing. Jessica is a more complicated character. She is willing to do whatever it takes as long as the end goal gets her where she wants to be. Laura Trentham uses two complete opposites to show her readers the importance of growth, life, love and happiness. Caught Up in the Touch is a look at small town life and big city goals. This series is a win. I received an ARC for an honest review.