Readers everywhere fell in love with the mesmerizing, unforgettable Grayson family and their loves. Now bestselling author Francis Ray spins another sexy, compelling romance featuring the Grayson clan…
LURING A MAN INTO LOVE Successful Santa Fe hotelier, Faith McBride has loved Brandon Grayson since she was a wallflower in high school and he was her big brother's best friend. Now hard-bodied Brandon is running a trendy restaurant a stone's throw from Casa de Serenidad, her posh five-star hotel. When Faith looks at Brandon, she dreams of being his wife. So although it's risky and risqué, she's plotting a secret campaign to win his body, mind, and heart.
MAY LEAD TO PASSION...OR HEARTBREAK
With his mother determined to marry him off, Brandon Grayson is on the alert for single females being thrown his way. He's even stopped dating, afraid of being trapped into a relationship. Surely nobody's safer to be around than sweet, familiar Faith. But celibacy is driving him crazy. For the first time he's noticing Faith's enticing lips and incredible curves. Suddenly it occurs to Brandon that an affair with the one woman he can trust would certainly be a no-strings-attached affair...
About the Author
Francis Ray is the New York Times bestselling author of the Grayson novels, the Falcon books, the Taggart Brothers, and Twice the Tempation, among many other romances. Her novel Incognito was made into a movie aired on BET. A native Texan, she is a graduate of Texas Woman's University and has a degree in nursing. Besides a writer, she is a school nurse practitioner with the Dallas Independent School District. She lives in Dallas.
Francis Ray (1944-2013) is the New York Times bestselling author of the Grayson novels, the Falcon books, the Taggart Brothers, and Twice the Temptation, among many other books. Her novel Incognito was made into a movie aired on BET. A native Texan, she was a graduate of Texas Woman's University and had a degree in nursing. Besides a writer, she was a school nurse practitioner with the Dallas Independent School District. She lived in Dallas. "Francis Ray is, without a doubt, one of the Queens of Romance." --Romance Review
Read an Excerpt
Dreaming of You
By Francis Ray
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2006 Francis Ray
All rights reserved.
"Thank goodness this is the last trip." Pierce Grayson, Brandon's younger brother, set the coffee bean grinder on the gleaming black granite counter in Brandon's spotless and ultramodern kitchen with a relieved sigh. The counter was filled with birthday gifts of various kitchen utensils and cooking appliances.
"What's her name?" Brandon didn't even try to keep the sarcasm out of his voice as he placed a twelve-speed stainless-steel blender and a rice cooker and steamer next to the coffee bean grinder.
A grin flashed across the sculpted face that women couldn't seem to get enough of. "Carmella."
Brandon folded his arms and leaned back against the counter. "You could at least pretend not to be having so much fun while I'm having none."
Pierce's manicured hand slapped Brandon on the back. "I appreciate your sacrifice, big brother."
"Only a nitwit would believe that," Sierra Grayson, their baby sister, mocked as she nudged over a sleek stainless-steel can opener to place an assortment of gourmet cooking oils on the breakfast table.
Pierce tried and failed to look contrite. "I'm just storing up memories."
Sierra made a face. "You've been using that lame excuse since Luke bit the dust."
"Just proves me right, since Morgan fell so quickly." Pierce turned to his older brother. "Brandon here is made of sturdier stuff."
"I might not be able to hold out much longer." His glance slid away from Sierra, who promptly rolled her eyes. He didn't like talking about sex in front of her.
"Pierce certainly couldn't have held out this long," Sierra said, running her fingers through shiny black hair that tumbled to her tiny waist.
Pierce shuddered and once again clasped Brandon's shoulder. "She's right. I couldn't. Are you sure this is the only way?"
Morose, Brandon nodded and unfolded his arms. "I've thought about this a lot. Playing the field is the only way."
"Then why aren't you playing?" Pierce demanded with his usual straightforwardness to get to the bottom of a problem.
"And don't act as if I haven't ever heard the word 'sex' before," Sierra said. "Pierce has a point. You dated before. Why stop now?"
"Because before Mama wasn't in the mix," he said a bit impatiently. "She has the uncanny ability to pick out the right woman. I can't take a chance that the woman I date is the one."
"I see your point," Pierce said slowly, then hung his head, only to lift it moments later. "Sierra, if Brandon falls, you might as well start picking out your china pattern."
Sierra swatted her brother on the chest. "Because we all know you can't go two days without a woman," she said with disgust.
"Women like me," Pierce said, his broad smile returning as he straightened the silk tie that exactly matched the pocket square in his fifteen-hundred-dollar wheat-colored sports jacket.
"They used to like me, too," Brandon said, his shoulders slumped.
Pierce and Sierra traded worried glances. Both knew one of the perks of Brandon's popular restaurant was all the women who came there. He adored women. Sierra lightly touched Brandon's arm in sympathy. "If it's any consolation, I'm not dating, either."
"You're too picky," Pierce said.
"Just like my brothers taught me to be," she said. "Whereas you, my dear brother, could use some of the same discretion. Carmella De La Vegas is a temperamental flamenco dancer who has a reputation for shredding her lovers once she's finished with them."
"Until now," Pierce said with confidence. "If there is nothing else, Carmella is waiting."
Sierra wrinkled her nose. "Since her group's last performance was tonight, I guess we won't hear from you until after she leaves Tuesday morning."
Pierce's dark eyes narrowed. "She's staying in a hotel, not in one of your lease properties. How do you know her itinerary?"
"Trade secret," she said sweetly.
"Get out of here," Brandon urged. "I would tell you to think of me, but it would be ungentlemanly."
With one last puzzled look at Sierra, Pierce left. As soon as the door closed, Brandon asked, "How did you know?"
She laughed. "I read it in the newspaper."
Brandon chuckled. "He'll worry about it all night. He likes everything neat and tidy."
"Exactly." Opening a drawer, Sierra pulled out a box cutter.
Brandon promptly took it away from her. "I can do this in the morning." He put the box she had been about to open under his arm and ushered her to the door. "Good night, and thanks."
With her hand on the doorknob, she paused. "If you need any help taking the old appliances to the Women's League, let me know."
Brandon shook his head. The Women's League was a nonprofit organization to help the disadvantaged of Santa Fe. His mother was an active member and past president. "Mother and Mrs. Poole are coming to pick up everything Monday. I understand they already have a waiting list."
"And you'll go over Tuesday night to give cooking instructions and food demonstrations and then feed the fifty or so extra men and women who show up at no charge," Sierra said.
He shrugged carelessly. "I enjoy doing it."
"And they enjoy having you." Sierra opened the door. "See you then, if not before. We know we won't see Pierce much before then."
Brandon grimaced. "Don't remind me."
She bit her lip in an uncharacteristic indecisive motion. "Perhaps dating just a bit wouldn't hurt."
Brandon threw his free arm around her slight shoulders. "That means a lot coming from you, and I might have to dip my toe in the dating waters again, but I'm going to try to hold out a little longer. Mama seemed too pleased with herself tonight."
Sierra's ebony eyes widened. "You think she's picked out your wife?"
Brandon sighed. "Yes."
"I don't suppose you have any idea who she is?" Sierra asked.
"Not a clue," he said with disgust. "Catherine and Phoenix were both from out of town. And we're still unsure if Mama had a hand in bringing Phoenix and Morgan together."
"I'm not," Sierra said. "Mama doesn't leave anything to chance. Remember, one of the cities Phoenix visited before she came here was Boston. Aunt Felicia might live with Uncle John Henry on his ranch in Oklahoma, but she grew up in Boston, her parents are there, and she has strong ties to the art community there. My guess is that Aunt Felicia had a hand in it somehow."
"Aunt Felicia and Mama spent a lot of time together tonight," Brandon said thoughtfully. "But they've always been close, even when Uncle John Henry and Aunt Felicia were separated."
"Besides being from out of town, the women she chose were talented and gifted. Catherine is a noted children's author; Phoenix, a renowned sculptress."
"So you think the woman Mama's picked is an artist or a woman with a special talent or gift of some type?"
"I'd like to say yes, but we both know how unpredictable Mama is."
"So, basically, I'm screwed."
"Not for a while," Sierra said, deadpan.
Brandon burst out laughing and hugged her again. "Get out of here. Drive safely, and call me when you get home."
It was a ritual Sierra was familiar with. "Happy birthday, and may you have many, many more."
"Hopefully as a single man."
Giving him one last smile, she went through the open door and closed it softly behind her.
Brandon turned with the boxed can opener and yawned. Opening the gifts and putting them away could wait. Setting the box on the kitchen table, he headed to the bedroom. By the time he reached the middle of the room his shirt was off.
Plopping on the side of the king-size bed, he pulled off his favorite Red Cactus boots, then shucked his slacks. He preferred jeans but had worn the pants to please his mother. Thank goodness he hadn't had to wear a tie. He'd leave that to Morgan and Pierce.
Opening the door to his bathroom, Brandon was three feet inside when he stepped in water. He glanced down and muttered an oath. Water trailed from the baseboard a few feet away.
Crouching, he discovered the wall behind the commode was wet. Straightening, he went to the phone in the bedroom and speed- dialed. With a restaurant, he never knew when he might need a plumber or electrician or any number of services.
"Reliable Plumbing answering service."
Brandon recognized Kay Smith's dry smoker's voice immediately. She was the owner's mother-in-law. "Good evening, Mrs. Smith. This is Brandon Grayson. I need Mr. Montgomery right away. I think a pipe in my wall burst."
"In your restaurant?" asked the efficient voice.
"My apart —" The bathroom was directly over the restaurant's storeroom. "Please tell Mr. Montgomery I'll be downstairs." Hanging up the phone, Brandon snagged his pants and rushed downstairs.
"Please reconsider and wait until tomorrow to leave." Faith stood on the bricked sidewalk in front of Casa de Serenidad with her two brothers. Their luggage was already inside the trunk of the luxury rented sedan.
"I wish I could, but I need to get back to the ranch," Duncan told her. "It's haying time."
"I have to meet one of my race car sponsors in Chicago on Monday," Cameron explained.
And if you stay, you might be reminded of too many memories. "I love you."
They hugged her, then started to the car, only to stop and come back. "You changed your mind?" she asked, meeting them halfway.
Duncan stared down at her. "Brandon seemed to think you weren't happy tonight. You'd tell us if there was a problem, wouldn't you?"
Faith's heart thumped. The last thing she needed was her brothers knowing how she felt about Brandon. "Brandon's mistaken."
Cameron frowned. "Obviously what we know about women you could put on the head of a pin."
Faith had never felt so helpless. She could cheerfully have wrung Caitlin's neck for what she'd done to Cameron. "Some women can't see what's in front of them."
"I'd hate like hell for you to fall prey to the McBride curse," Duncan said.
Pain and shadows crossed her brother's dark face. When Faith finished with Caitlin, Duncan's ex-wife, Sheryl, was next. "I have to believe one day things will change in our favor."
"We pray that's true for you," Duncan said. What he hadn't said was that for him and Cameron there was no hope. Hugging her, he passed her to Cameron's waiting arms.
"Take care." Cameron tweaked her nose. "Stay safe."
"You both do the same. Good-bye." She watched Cameron climb into the driver's seat while Duncan got in on the passenger side. Cameron was happiest when he was behind the wheel.
It wasn't often that they could get together. Duncan was busy with his ranch in Montana, and Cameron was on the NASCAR circuit. Both had fled Santa Fe after their disastrous relationships. In that, they'd done as their father had done when their mother had left him the day Faith graduated from college six years ago.
The McBrides could turn a dime into a dollar, as her grandfather had often said, but they weren't worth warm spit when it came making their women stick around. With Faith's birth, the first female in six generations, they'd all thought their luck had changed. So far, it hadn't.
Turning, Faith followed the well-lit path through the bricked archway into the courtyard flush with blooming flowers in bright hues of red and purple, then continued into the open lobby of Casa de Serenidad, her pride and joy. After her mother left, Faith's father had lost interest in the hotel that had been in the family for two generations.
With Duncan and Cameron gone, the job of running the establishment had fallen to her. It had been scary for a woman fresh out of college, armed only with a business degree and zeal, to succeed. She'd put her plans of traveling the world on hold and settled down to running the family business.
Her heels clicked softly on the terrazzo floor. Her practiced eyes surveyed the area, pleased with the comfortable jade green leather sitting area, fresh floral arrangements, and muted colors of red, green, and yellow in the throw pillows and the area rug. As usual, she stopped by the front desk before retiring for the night.
"Hello, Pamela. Everything is going well, I see." One thing she'd learned was to always phrase a question as a positive statement.
"Yes, Ms. McBride." Pamela Houston was a new hire and overflowing with good cheer. Cute and petite, with big brown eyes, she had a knack for soothing the ruffled feathers of disgruntled travelers who'd had delayed flights, car trouble, or other problems before arriving. "A number of the guests at the Grayson party stopped by and asked for information on the guest and banquet facilities. We gave them the gift bags you had prepared. They were all thankful and were only too anxious to provide their mailing information."
"Excellent." The note from her offering 15 percent off their first stay for completing the form probably helped. Everyone liked a bargain.
"They were disappointed that we're booked solid through summer," Pamela added.
"Thanks to the efficient employees like you, we will stay that way." The only reason Faith's brothers had a room was that she had known when Brandon's party was scheduled and had reserved the suite far in advance. Another guest had late check-in Sunday afternoon. "Good night."
"Good night, Ms. McBride. Sleep well."
"Thank you," Faith said, knowing that sleep depended on whether she had the nightmare of Brandon at the altar waiting for his bride or the erotic one with Brandon doing things to her body that left her breathless with desire. She dreaded both. They were a painful reminder of what she could never have. And if he learned her secret she'd never be able to face him again.
Was there any misery worse than loving a man who didn't love you back? If there was, Faith didn't want any part of it.
In a long silk lilac-colored nightgown Faith stood in front of the vanity in the oversize bathroom decorated in muted tones of blue and beige and tried to objectively assess herself. She started with her face — mocha-colored, unblemished, with naturally arched eyebrows and an average nose and mouth. She would never drive a man wild with lust, but she wouldn't make him run screaming from the room, either.
Inhaling deeply, she let her gaze drift downward, quickly running over the ample breasts that she had tried to hide in high school with oversize shirts in the summer and sweaters in the winter. Then she viewed her entire body. They're still there ... the thirty, all right, fifty-three and a half pounds that, no matter how she starved herself or how many miles she ran, clung to her like a burr.
Her mother fondly called her daughter and youngest child "curvy." Those less charitable called her fat. She lifted her arms and vigorously shook them, pleased that no loose skin jiggled. She might be ample, but she was toned. As if that would help her get Brandon to notice her.
Faith left the bathroom, cutting off the light as she went into the adjoining bedroom, and climbed into the ornately carved queen-size bed with a six-foot scalloped headboard upholstered with blue check silk. The pale blue damask coverlet edged with silk trim matched the drawn striped silk draperies. Vintage beams crossed overhead to meet in the middle, where a handblown glass chandelier with crystal drops hung. On the opposite wall over her fireplace was an 1850 French tapestry.
Drawing up her knees, she stared out the French casement double doors leading to the lit terrace. Outside, Wave petunias, Dragon Wing begonias, impatiens, and moss roses in full bloom spilled over urns and terra-cotta pots. Pink peace roses trailed over the brick wall at the back of the enclosure.
Since she couldn't travel to Paris, she had decided to incorporate a French flair when redecorating her home. Countless times she'd imagined Brandon here with her.
He thought of her as the little sister of his best friend. She thought of him as her knight in shining armor, her prince charming, the man she had secretly loved since he had saved her from going to her sophomore dance without a date. She'd assumed Cameron had put Brandon up to asking her, but when she'd asked him he'd grinned and said it was his idea.
Faith hadn't been able to contain her happiness until she remembered she couldn't dance and sadly admitted as much to Brandon. Ignoring the good-natured jibes and instructions from Cameron, Brandon had proceeded to teach her.
The night of the dance was magical. He'd given her a gardenia corsage and acted as if it were a real date. She'd even been able to talk him into briefly playing the saxophone of one of the band members. She knew he played a musical instrument, as all the Grayson siblings did, but had never heard him play. Each note had resonated in her heart. Loving Brandon was the easiest things in her life to do. The hug at her front door was almost as good as a kiss. He cared.
Whenever she had a problem, Brandon had always been there to help her solve or get through it. And he might be lost to her forever.
Everyone in Santa Fe knew that Brandon was next in line to get married. It was only a matter of time before his mother threw a woman in his path whom he couldn't resist ... just as she had done with his older brothers. When that happened, Faith would lose any chance of making Brandon notice her. He was the kind of man who would love one woman deeply, completely. Once he found his soul mate, it was all over for Faith, and there was nothing she could do about it.
"Pipe busted all right." Jerry Montgomery, in overalls and a starched chambray shirt, hunkered down in front of the wet wall behind the commode.
Excerpted from Dreaming of You by Francis Ray. Copyright © 2006 Francis Ray. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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