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Texan Trent Tyler had never met a deal he couldn't conqueror a woman, for that matter. Now the success of his Arizona hotel project required him to do what he did best: seduce a lady into submission. The irony? What Trent needed most from Julia Lowell was her brains.
With memories of their torrid weekend affair still fresh in their minds, Trent easily convinced Julia to become an employee with benefits. But when she discovered the truth behind her hire, who would come out on top?
About the Author
Storytelling has always been a part of Charlene Sands's life. As a young girl, she remembers sitting with her father in the evenings asking him to tell her a story. His imagination and flare for the dramatic always entertained and had her coming back for more. Later she began reading his written word; journals and romantic poetry that he'd penned for the family, and those words inspired her to take the writing plunge.
Charlene has always read romancegrand adventures where the hero and heroine traversed rugged ground, beating insurmountable odds to finally find the path to true love. Books filled her life, and her list of favorite authors kept growing. When she finally mustered the courage to face the computer head-on and write, she felt an immediate kinship to those talented authors. Since she fell in love and married her high school sweetheart, she is definitely a romance author who believes in happy endings and writes love stories that warm the heart.
She began her writing journey in 1995 and sold her first novel in 1998, appropriately named Chance in a Million. To date, she has sold sixteen books and counting, writing both Silhouette Desire and Harlequin Historical novels. Presently, she heads the Ask an Author program for the Orange County Chapter of RWA where she is proudly an active member.
Read an Excerpt
"There's my miracle worker." Trent Tyler smiled as he sauntered out of the Arizona hotel's wide, high-arched front doors, his rich sexy voice doing a number on Julia Lowell already. It still amazed her that all of this belonged to Trent.
She steadied herself against the limousine that had brought her to Crimson Canyon, her breath catching in her throat seeing Trent again. She reminded herself that he was her boss now. She could no longer think of him as the man who knew how to push all her sexual buttons.
He strode over to her with a sure-and-easy gait that always attracted female eyes. As he approached, wearing crisp denim Wranglers, a black studded shirt and a western buckle that reflected the last glimmers of Arizona sunlight, he put a finger to his Stetson in a polite tip.
"We're going to need a miracle, Trent."
"I've got faith in you, darlin'. You'll pull it off." He turned to the limo driver. "Put Miss Lowell's gear in her room, Kirby."
"Will do, Mr. Tyler."
Once the driver took her luggage away, Julia stared into Trent's dark eyes and reminded herself of their professional relationship now. She'd handed him her full resume in person that told him of her accomplishments. A master's degree in business and landing a job fresh out of graduate school as an executive in the biggest marketing firm in Los Angeles had been enough of a recommendation for him. She was Laney's best friend and could be trusted, he'd said when he'd offered her the job.
They'd met months ago when Laney had married Trent's brother Evan. Sparks had flown immediately, the tall, handsome Texan catching Julia's eye from the get-go. Directly after the wedding, Julia and Trent had had a wild weekend affair and she'd never heard from him again.
Until two weeks ago. When he'd shown up on her doorstep in Los Angeles with flowers, champagne and an apology for not calling.
Trent lifted his lips in a devilish grin. "You look gorgeous."
She would have blushed if her olive skin tone allowed it. How could she forget those hot sizzling nights spent in Trent's arms? They'd nearly combusted and gone up in a big puff of smoke. How could she forget the way he'd whisper her name right before her body shattered into a thousand pieces?
She had debated her spontaneous decision to accept this marketing position a dozen times over the past weeks. Trent had the markings of a confirmed bachelor who was dedicated to his project. He'd made it clear he wasn't interested in a relationship. Tempest West was his priority, claiming all of his time and energy. Yet every time they'd been together, at his brother's wedding and then just weeks ago, they couldn't keep their hands off each other.
Her friend Laney had always insisted that the right woman could sway any man and that she and Evan were living proof of that. Julia feared she was in too deep already. Trent affected her in ways she'd never felt before and when she looked at him, she envisioned a real life with him, and a family.
Trent pulled her near, closing his hands around her waist, and bent his head, his hat brim shadowing his eyes. "It's good to see you."
Be strong, Julia.
She sucked oxygen deep into her lungs and set her hands on his chest. As she felt his strength through the fabric of his shirt, her resistance faded like the last crimson blaze of sunshine.
Trent smiled and leaned in for a kiss.
She gazed at his mouth right before his lips touched hers briefly. Sensations rippled wickedly through her body. The kiss ended quickly, but the impact of his sensual mouth caressing hers remained. Unable to meet his eyes, she peered at his throat. "Maybe, uh, we need some ground rules, Trent."
"I agree," he said instantly. Then he put his arm around her waist and guided her toward the front door. "I'll take you to your room. Let you settle in. We'll have dinner in an hour and talk."
He agreed just like that? Julia slanted him a glance. He didn't flinch. Maybe he'd realized that once she'd become his employee, and she'd be living on the premises as part of her contract, they'd have to draw a line in the desert sand.
"Okay." Was she disappointed or relieved?
A second later, she decided she was both.
Trent dived into his work at his hotel the same way he did everything else in his life, giving one hundred percent. He could be ruthless at times, tenacious when necessary and as immovable as rock when he believed he was right about something.
He was right about Tempest West. Down in his bones, he knew he'd make a success of it. He wasn't cut out to work in a big city like his brother Evan or schmooze with an elite crowd like Brock, the party animal of the Tyler brothers. So the declaration he'd made had fallen easily from his lips"Tempest West will make more money than any new Tempest Hotel in its first year of operation."
Brock, never one to shy away from a dare, took the bet without blinking. He was scheduled to open a new Tempest Hotel on Maui and Evan had been hauled into the challenge to referee. It was reminiscent of their youth, when the two headstrong boys would compete and the oldest would make sure they both played fair. Evan and Brock both thought Trent didn't stand a chance in hell of winning.
Tempest West's rustic, western-themed hotel called to a different clientele and didn't fit in with the smooth, sleek style of the other well-established hotels in their chain. Trent had sunk his own money into his dream hotel. Tempest West was his, and his alone. He'd put his whole heart into it and now his reputation, pride and ego were on the line.
Tempest West had opened with flair, but in the few months since, occupancy rates had dropped off, meaning they were only making a marginal profit. Trent had fired his last marketing VP. He'd needed a fresh approach, someone with a new vision. He'd needed Julia Lowell.
And he'd done everything in his power to get her here.
With his arm loosely on her waist, Trent steered Julia toward the massive lobby of the hotel. "This is my favorite spot inside the hotel."
Julia scanned the surroundings with a look of sheer wonder in her eyes. "The pictures in your brochures don't come close. This is amazing, Trent."
"Amazing's a good description." He couldn't deny it.
He'd spared no cost to bring the allure and amazing Crimson Canyon sunsets into the lobby. Tall, expansive windows banked the entire west wall and brought the beauty of the outside, inside. Majestic red rock mountains concealed the lower edge of the setting sun now. Golden light put a glow onto the land Trent owned, dotted with cottonwoods in the distance.
He put one hand on Julia's shoulder and pointed with the other. "See way out where your eyes skitter across a sea of blue? That's Destiny Lake. There's a legend that goes along with that name. I'll tell you about it someday."
"Trent, this is wonderful.You've brought the west here, with the furnishings and stone fireplaces. It doesn't feel like a hotel lobby, but a warm and friendly greeting place."
Trent squeezed her shoulder. "I want you to see it allthe land, the lake, the riding stables. There's a modern-day bunkhouse where the wranglers stay. Tomorrow I'll take you on the nickel tour."
Julia's satisfied smile made his groin twitch. He'd put that look on her face before when she'd fallen into his arms after a powerful orgasm. Then she'd curled herself into him and he'd held her until sleep claimed them.
She had a slender body, gorgeous legs, pretty light green eyes and dark chestnut hair, but it was more with Julia. The sex between them was the best he'd ever had. When they were together, they detonated like dynamite.
He'd been ruthless in his quest to get her to Tempest West and felt a twinge of guilt, but not enough to tell her the truth and jeopardize the hotel's success. As long as she didn't find out he'd orchestrated her losing the Bridges Restaurant account in New York to bring her here, he'd be in the clear. He'd do whatever necessary to keep her in the dark about his high-handed manipulation. He couldn't afford for her to find out.
Trent wanted her in the boardroom and in his bedroom. She'd turn the hotel vacancy rate around, helping him prove to his brothers Tempest West could keep up with the other hotels, while he and Julia filled their unquenchable thirst for each other.
Both stood to gain.
"I'll come get you in an hour. We'll have dinner," he said as he guided her from the lobby to the small open-air elevator that would take her to a private suite on the third floor. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a key card and set it into her palm. Stroking his thumb over her fingers reminded him of breathless whispers and nights of desperate, crazy sex. "I'd come in with you, but then I doubt you'd get the rest you need."
She shook her head. "Trent."
He let her go and glanced down her long legs to her red-sandaled feet. He'd never forget making love to her, demanding that she take everything off but those sexy shoes. "You wore them."
Julia's eyes flickered. "They match my outfit." She didn't pretend not to catch his meaning and that brought his appraisal of her up a notch.
He sent a smile. "Sure do like a woman with good fashion sense."
Julia kicked off her sandals the minute she entered the room. She took a big breath, filled her lungs and blocked out the memory flash those sandals evoked. She walked over to a beautiful arrangement of flowers waiting for her on the sofa table and read the card's greeting.
Once she noticed her surroundings though, her mind shifted into business mode. The suite fulfilled all of the expectations she'd envisioned for Tempest West.
Rustic with class and style. Luxurious with understated amenities. Simple, yet elegant in design. Trent had spared no expense and took great pride in the décor, the views and the unpretentious use of space. She walked the length of the suite to look out the rectangular wide-paned window to the view below.
The hotel itself was only three stories high but the heart of the grounds was in the one-story attached cottage suites that circled out in a horseshoe shape from the main hotel in both directions and overlooked the stables, the lake and the canyon beyond.
"You've outdone yourself with this place, Trent," she murmured, a smile emerging. Everything Trent did, he did with positive enthusiasm, giving of himself one hundred percent. Julia had the erotic memories to prove it.
She walked into the spacious bedroom and unpacked her clothes, placing her casual attire in the armoire drawers and hanging up her work clothes in the walk-in closet. Next, she strolled to the double oak doors that led to a large private balcony and flipped open her cell phone, hit auto-dial and waited. After the second ring, her father picked up. "Hi, Daddy," she said. "I'm here, safe and sound."
"That's good, sweetheart. I appreciate the call."
Julia was nearly thirty years old but she didn't mind checking in with her dad. Her mother had died two years ago and she knew her father was extremely lonely. They'd always been close and although she'd been terribly disappointed when she'd lost the contract she'd vied for with a national restaurant chain, she'd witnessed relief on her father's face when she'd told him she wouldn't be moving to New York after all.
A few days later, Trent had shown up on her doorstep in Los Angeles apologizing for not keeping in contact with her after their weekend affair after Evan and Laney's wedding. Flowers, champagne and a night in Trent's arms had gone a long way in consoling her, especially after the ego hit she'd taken losing the Bridges account. Before long, she'd had to break the news to her dad that she'd be moving to Arizona to work for Trent Tyler. He'd made her an ideal offer that she couldn't justify refusing.
"So, how is Tempest West?"
"Dad, it's stunning. The place has so much to offer. I think I'll be able to help Trent make it a destination for the elite."
"I know you will. You've got my genes."
She laughed as she was reminded of her father's success in the banking industry. He had a good head for business and apparently, she'd taken after him. "I know I do. You gave me smarts and I intend to use them here."
"That's my girl," he said and once the conversation ended, Julia stripped out of her clothes and turned the spigot to Hot in the oversize, tiled shower. She made quickl work of stepping in, soaping up and rinsing off. Minutes later, she donned a fluffy white robe from the vanity closet and hugged herself around the middle, enjoying the lush feel of soft cotton against her skin. She flopped onto the king-size four-poster bed, seeking a little rest before dinner, and promptly fell asleep.
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