Nothing draws a magnate like a steel magnolia…
Harley Cade is back in town—and the former bad boy is downright irresistible now that he’s donned a hard hat and set to work restoring the South's finest homes to their former grandeur. While wealth may have gained Harley entry into high society, it’s going to take a lot more than a fat bank account to win the lovely Laney Tarrington.
Laney isn't open to giving the self-made magnate a second chance—no matter how much she needs him. With her family fortune gone, Laney finally has to stand on her own two feet. The last person she’d ever lean on is Harley, the man who left her behind with nothing more than memories of the passion they once shared….
With the attraction still burning hot between them, Harley isn’t above seduction—or secretly buying Laney’s bankrupted family’s estate. After all, he no longer has to prove himself to anyone, least of all the daughter of Mobile, Alabama’s most prestigious family. But will pride keep Harley from gaining the biggest prize of all—a place in Laney’s heart?
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Flip This Love
A Coastal Heat Novel
By Maggie Wells
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2015 Maggie Wells
All rights reserved.
"That's it. Suck, sugar."
The husky timbre of Harley's voice sent shivers down Laney's spine. One warm hand slid from her shoulder to her back. The tips of his fingers dug into the valley of her spine. His hand could nearly span her waist. Her nipples puckered when he slipped that roving hand into her hair. Oh, how she wished she'd worn it up. She loved the feel of him. Loved being skin to skin with him. She almost wept with relief when he wrapped his big, broad palm around her nape. Heat seeped into the taut muscles of her neck. A thin stream of hot moisture escaped from the corner of her mouth and trickled down her chin.
"Oh, yeah. Suck harder."
It wasn't the first time he'd said those words to her. God help her, she knew it wouldn't be the last. She was weak, a quivering mass of happy, hurt, and oh-please-touch-me-again. But she needed to toughen up. She had to be on her guard. The man was as insidious as the kudzu that crept into her mother's flower garden.
Laney pulled the spent crawfish shell from her mouth and dropped it onto the butcher paper in front of her. Fingers tangled in her hair and tugged lightly; a tiny lightning bolt of white-hot desire streaked straight through her. She looked up in time to see Harley flash old Mrs. Hillbury a dimpling smile and commandeer the folding chair beside hers.
Scrambling to assemble her thoughts, Laney turned away from Harley's choirboy-gone-bad grin and searched the crowd. She sure could use a swallow of the cold beers her friend Brooke had gone to fetch for them, but her trusty pal was nowhere to be seen. Of course. Laney was on her own. She ought to be used to it by now. She should be a professional when it came to rebuffing this man's advances. She only needed to tap into the sass. No better way to keep a man dancing on the string than to let him think he had half a chance. But only half.
The first time Harley Cade asked her out, Laney Tarrington laughed in his face. Then she locked herself in the ladies' room and did a happy dance. The second time, she mocked him mercilessly. To his face. Perverse thing he was, Harley seemed to enjoy her abuse. So much so that she lay awake into the wee small hours plotting ways to entice him.
The third time he asked her out, Harley gave up any pretense of acting like a gentleman. He leaned in close, and right there, in the middle of the Saints Preserve Us fundraiser for their alma mater, St. Patrick's Academy, in a voice barely above a whisper, he told her all the things he wanted to do to her. With her. For her.
In graphic detail. In language most Southern men would never consider using with a lady.
She almost cracked. How the hell could any red-blooded American woman resist him? The man was built like some kind of old-time mafia muscle and sported a pair of dimples deep enough to bury a body.
But she had resisted.
She resisted the fourth, fifth, and sixth times, too. The seventh time got her. Lucky number seven. Oh, God, had it been lucky. She took him back to the tiny apartment she kept in her parents' carriage house and let him have his wicked way with her. Unyielding as she might have been at first, Laney had to admit the man lived up to the hype.
And then the son of a bitch up and left town the next day.
If he thought he could waltz back into town and pick up where they left off ... She waved the possibility away like she was batting at a pesky mosquito. "What the hell are you doing here?"
He blinked, all boyish innocence trapped in a bar bouncer's body. "Why, I live here, sugar." The dimples winked as he scooted his chair closer. "Did ya miss me?"
Laney hoped the shiver his molasses-thick baritone unleashed wasn't visible to the naked eye. The moment the thought crystallized, she blinked, trying to strike the word 'naked' from her internal dictionary. She definitely needed to dispatch the too-tempting man beside her.
Hell, she'd spent most her life putting men in their place. It was child's play for her. At least, it should have been. A smart mouth combined with a cool stare had long been her number one, never-fail defense mechanism. It worked like a charm. Except with Harley. For some reason, it always took a little extra moxie to dispense with this particular man.
Arching one eyebrow, she turned enough to catch sight of his eye. Big mistake. Those eyes were the smooth, clear green of old fashioned Coca-Cola bottles. Looking into them made her mouth run dry. She wanted a long, deep drink of this man. Damn good thing her own mama had drilled the art of self-denial into her almost from the cradle.
She could overpower this unseemly desire. She only needed to put her mind to it. And get her heart to stop thumping like a drum line. All the aforementioned physical reactions coalesced into one big pot of want, and judging by the knowing glint in his eyes, she wasn't hiding a damn thing from him. She knew exactly how to wipe the smile from his face. Pursing her lips, she gave her head a slow, pitying shake.
"Well, they will let anyone into these things, won't they?"
"It's a fundraiser, so yes. Anyone with plenty of money in the bank." His smile widened even as his beautiful eyes narrowed. "So how did you get in, Miss Laney? They decide they needed a little window dressing?"
The jab felt like a slap but she didn't look away. The Mercy Hospital Mardi Gras fundraiser was one of the most exclusive social events in Mobile. Exclusive and expensive. Many a Gulf Shore wannabe dreamed of receiving a gilt-edged invitation to sit in a drafty tent and eat boiled mudbugs, but not many wormed their way in. Most of those had come from solid, upper-middle class families with strong ties to the Mobile business community.
Only one of them boasted about growing up in a one-bedroom apartment in the Southern Comfort housing project. Then again, few of those upwardly-mobile Mobilians had achieved the success Harley Cade had before he turned twenty-five.
"My mother was on the board." Her fingers tightened on the edge of the table even as she tossed him the tidbit of information. Laney tried not to think about it too much. Comparing how far the man next to her had climbed to her own family's financial fall made her stomach churn. Pressing a hand to her belly to quell the unease, she twisted in her seat, searching the crowd for Brooke and the damn bottle of Bud she so desperately needed.
She heaved a heavy sigh when she found no beer forthcoming and turned her attention back to her companion. Lord, she wanted his hands on her again. Those big, strong hands that ripped ceilings and tore boards from walls and stroked her so gently she came hard enough to see stars. Then, as if her wish were his command, Harley covered her hand with his.
"I was awful sorry to hear about your mama. She was a real class act."
The lump of emotion permanently lodged in her chest rose up into her throat. Afraid she couldn't manage even the smallest 'thank you,' she simply nodded and gave him a weak smile.
Apparently it was enough, because Harley returned her nod, retrieved his hand, and plucked an ear of corn from the mishmash of boiled potatoes and shellfish the server had dumped at the center of the paper-lined table. He examined it critically. The cobbette all but disappeared into his large hand.
With a flick of his wrist, he held the morsel pinched between his thumb and middle finger. He added butter and salt to his victim, then sank straight white teeth into the golden kernels. She wet her parched lips, aching to take a bite from the opposite side. Shaking off the urge to go all Lady and the Tramp on him, she settled for trying to take a bite out of him. "That's Brooke's seat."
"Not anymore." Butter trickled down his chin. He wiped it away with his wrist while he chewed but his lips glistened. "I paid her off."
Laney blinked. "Paid her off? Brooke doesn't need your money. Her family —"
"I didn't pay her in money. I'm letting her interview me on Monday."
The self-important statement should have come off as arrogant, and he could be damn arrogant when he wanted to be, but this time it played out as simple confidence. Simple, sexy, sinful confidence. She couldn't let him know how much she liked his casual cockiness. Didn't want to give the man more ammunition than he needed. She was already weakening, and they both knew it.
Settling on a stare of blank confusion, she gave her head a bewildered little wag. "Interview you? Whatever for?"
Harley's smile widened. "Believe it or not, some people think I'm a fairly interesting guy."
"I'm sure you are ... in your own way."
"You're interested enough," he drawled. Before she could retort, he dropped the corn cob onto the paper, ripped a paper towel from the roll planted at the center of the table, and carefully wiped his fingers. Then one of those big, sexy working man's hands landed on her knee. "You are, and it's time to stop fighting it."
"No." Laney felt her lashes flutter, but she refused to give in and wallow in the warmth of the caress. "You had your shot, and you took off."
"I had something more interesting to do than letting a bored debutante jerk me around." He whispered the words soft enough only she would hear, but anyone looking at them would know what was happening between them. "You ready to get serious, Delaney?"
Yes. No. Licking her lips, she closed her eyes and shook her head. It was all she had left. One last denial. And they both knew it was futile.
He'd been patient. Even while he'd been away, he'd cornered the market on charming but persistent. He'd called, and when she didn't answer, he started leaving her messages set to the tunes of classic rock songs. He texted. Silly, annoying texts where he asked what she was wearing, then attempted to describe his usual uniform of jeans and T-shirts using humorously provocative adjectives. She ignored those, too, but couldn't quite bring herself to delete them. Now, he was back and looked to be fully prepared to use sheer force of will to wear her down.
The hell of it was, she wanted him every bit as much as he wanted her.
As if to prove he could read her mind, he gave her knee a gentle squeeze. "I'll be picking you up tomorrow night, Delaney. We'll go to dinner, then I'm taking you to see some movie about the guy some girl can't forget, then I'm going to take you home and make sure you'll never, ever forget me."
Her refusal didn't come out with quite as much oomph as she would have liked, but Laney was pleased to get it out at all. His grin proved him undaunted. The crinkles at the corners of his eyes proclaimed him downright amused. The sight of him looking so smug and sure of himself set her teeth on edge. It also made her want to squirm in her seat.
Plucking a hunk of boiled potato from the pile in front of her, she popped it into her mouth and chewed slowly, refusing to break eye contact with him. She'd always been stubborn, but these past six months had made her stronger. There was no way in Hades she would let this man — of all men — bulldoze his way into her life and pick up as if he hadn't missed a step. He'd missed a dozen, if not more. And some of those steps were big ones. Life-altering ones. The kind she wasn't prepared to share with a guy she couldn't count on to hang in for the long haul. Brooke would tell her she had enough abandonment issues without adding Mr. Wham-bam-oops-gottago-ma'am to her hit parade.
"I said no." She kept her voice pitched low but coated in the sticky-sweet honey she was taught would soften even the harshest of blows. "Stay away from me, Harley Cade. You had your chance to make something happen and you blew it."
Once again, he covered her hand with his. She tried to pull it away, but those thick, strong fingers wrapped her up tight. "Sweetheart, you weren't ready for the chances I wanted to take."
Fire burned in her throat and tears threatened. The tears she refused to shed when she found out he'd left town. The ones she withheld each time she rejected one of his calls. They seared her retinas and frayed her nerves, but she wouldn't let even one fall. After all, she was a Tarrington and he was ... nothing more than some poor white trash who, by hook or by crook, ended up sitting on a pile of money.
At least, that was what she told herself late at night. Long after her heartbeat slowed and her breathing returned to normal. In the dark quiet of her apartment where no one but Laney knew how many times she'd whispered his name as she made herself come.
But she was a Southern woman — born to manage men. And this one was no different from any other. He wanted what he couldn't have. The hunt. It got them all hot and bothered. Well, hormones run amok or not, she wasn't falling into his trap so easily. Not this time.
Wetting her upper lip, she suppressed the urge to smile when his gaze immediately dropped to her mouth. So easy. "Well, sugar," she said, adding a little extra saccharine to the endearment he liked to use on her, "I think it's time I took my chances with that bartender, right over there."
Without giving him a chance to anticipate her move, she pushed away from the table. Smoothing the clingy knit dress over her hips, she bent at the waist, giving him a clear shot straight down her neckline as she launched her parting salvo.
"From what I saw earlier, he's not very bright, but he sure is handsome." Not above copping a feel, she gave the tensed muscle of Harley's shoulder a gentle knead. "Of course, you know I like them that way." He caught her hand as she turned on her heel, but Laney didn't let him slow her down. As predictable as a summer shower, he rose from his purloined chair and made to follow her. Dropping her voice to a teasing lilt, she sent him a sidelong smile. "He tells me his name is Calvin. I think I might check and see if maybe he has it printed on his underwear ... Wouldn't that be a hoot?"
She did when he tugged on her hand. Hard to keep going with a two-hundred pound anchor holding her back. Drawing a deep breath, she turned, taking a full minute to let her gaze travel from his collarbone to those gorgeous green eyes. "Yes?"
He stepped closer and it was all she could do to keep from backing down. With his ready smile, adorable dimples and good-old-boy manner, it was easy to forget the man topped six-four. He might wear designer clothes and a heavy platinum watch these days, but underneath, Harley Cade was seventy-six inches of rock-hard working man muscle.
This time, there was nothing calculated in the need to wet her lips. Her throat was just as parched, and it had nothing to do with the spicy blend of Cajun seasonings used on the crawfish. She placed a hand at the center of his broad chest to get her balance, then steeled herself against the heavy thud of his heartbeat. She'd fallen asleep with her ear pressed to that exact spot. And awakened alone. A flash of remembered humiliation flared in her cheeks. Setting her jaw, she tipped her head back, fully prepared to stare the big guy down.
"What do you want?"
He replied without missing a beat, but it was the same too-quick answer he'd given her so many times. This time she was one memorable night and six lonely months smarter.
His smile faltered for a split second but returned double strength. "Now, don't be like that. I told you what I was doin' out there."
Her jaw dropped, but Laney snapped it right back into place. Yes, he'd explained. A week after the fact and from two thousand miles away. She hadn't replied. What was the point? It wasn't like they were ever going to be a thing anyway. She was another notch in his tool belt.
Dropping her voice to a harsh whisper, she leaned in. "You said you wanted me, and you had me. Be happy with what you got."
"I want more."
Incensed by his arrogance, she jerked her hand from his and took a step back. But it wasn't a retreat. No. She needed room to make sure he knew where the battle lines were drawn. He was going to have to run stark naked across a big, wide no-man's land before she let him back in her panties. "You can want all you want, Harley Cade, but we both know wanting isn't getting."
She tried not to notice how the muscles in his arms bulged when he crossed them over his chest. Honest to Pete, she did. But good manners only went so far. There were some things a woman could not help noting, even if she was raised to be a lady.
"I pretty much get what I want these days."
Excerpted from Flip This Love by Maggie Wells. Copyright © 2015 Maggie Wells. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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
Really loved this one! Not even sure why, Harley's a bit gruff and self assured, at least that's how he appears at first but as the story goes on and you get to see bits of his past you understand why he is the way he is. Laney gave him a chance when they were younger and he broke her heart. A repeat of that - no way!! Harley's determined though and he plans to show her exactly how good they could be together if she'd just give him another chance. These two just seemed like oil and vinegar at the beginning but eventually they won me over. Witty banter and the lowering of walls really had me liking these two and wanting to see them together. In the end it was a book that made me happy so in my opinion that's the sign of a good read. This is one I would definitely recommend.