Read an Excerpt
Her Accidental Boyfriend
A Secret Wishes Novel
By Robin Bielman, Wendy Chen, Stacy Abrams
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2013 Robin Bielman
All rights reserved.
Not once had her birthday wish over the past eight years come true, but that didn't stop Kagan Owens from wishing it again. You can be whatever you want to be, her mom had told her, and she wished that to be true more than anything else.
She tucked her hands under her thighs and reveled in the glow from the twenty-six candles covering the white chocolate cake sitting on her round dining room table. Twenty-six on the twenty-sixth. Her Golden Birthday. That meant this was her lucky year, didn't it?
"... Happy birthday, dear Kagan. Happy birthday to you. And many moooorrre."
Kagan blinked and looked over at her best friend. Charlotte flashed one of her million-dollar smiles and added, "Make a wish, Jelly Belly."
The endearment helped wipe away the gnawing in her stomach. This wish, this time, in this place — this was it. She took in a deep breath, shut her eyes, and wished for independence and clarity as she blew out her candles.
What she wanted to be loomed just outside that part of her brain that held all the answers, but without the constant instruction and intrusion from her father, she knew she was closer than she'd ever been before.
"Open your present," Charlotte said, her voice full of excitement.
Kagan watched her nudge closer the rectangle box wrapped in opalescent pink paper with a big white bow. A mischievous smile spread across Charlotte's face.
"You did not need to get me a present. Flying here from New York was enough. The best gift ever." Kagan reached over and squeezed Charlotte's hand. She swallowed down the silly emotion in the back of her throat that suggested this move across the country had been the biggest mistake of her life.
Cascade, the charming small town in Oregon, with its miles of soft sand and inviting surf, mountains that beckoned to get lost in, and people right out of a Hallmark channel movie, was the perfect place for her to go unnoticed. And for a little while at least, that's what she'd needed. She missed Charlotte, missed the quick pace of New York, missed her favorite pizza place. But time away had been vital to her well-being.
Charlotte squeezed back. "Talking on the phone these past four months hasn't been enough. I needed to see you."
"Thank you. And thanks for being so stealthy about it." Kagan pulled her arm back. "I'm sorry it had to be that way."
"Are you kidding? I love this secret stuff. Getting to be evasive about our contact and your whereabouts with your dad is sort of fun. It reminds me of high school and all the fibbing we did to get away from our parents."
A dull, uneasy ache flared to life in the pit of her stomach when she thought about her dad. Leaving without a word had been necessary, but that didn't make her actions any more innocent.
"Hey," Charlotte said, leaning over and bumping her shoulder. "Don't worry about your dad. He's fine. He's pissed, but it's his own fault you ran away. Do not beat yourself up about this. What he wanted from you is inexcusable."
"I know. But every once in a while — "
"You miss him. I know. And you feel bad. I know that too. But you were miserable, Kay, and if you'd stayed you would have been beyond unhappy with his demand that you marry Brett."
Kagan flinched at her best friend's so-true words. She leaned back and let her eyes wander around her rented townhouse. She loved the dark hardwood floors, her twill walnut colored sofa with big seams and down-blend-wrapped cushions, the big starfish rug, and the glass cabinet filled with her mom's collection of Roseville pottery. She loved her pedestal dining table and upholstered chairs.
Every decoration had been her decision and not an interior designer's hired by her father. For the first time in her life, she'd been allowed to pick what she wanted and the experience had fueled her desire to keep things that way. When she went back to New York, she would keep them that way.
Her gaze landed on the framed photo sitting on the small fireplace mantle. She and her mom were dressed for a black tie affair with their arms wrapped around each other and huge grins on their almost identical faces. Kagan remembered it like it was yesterday even though it was eleven years ago. It was the last picture taken of the two of them.
One minute her mom was there, and the next she wasn't.
"Now open your present so you can really get your happy on," Charlotte said, breaking into her thoughts.
Kagan narrowed her eyes. What had Charlotte done? She tore the wrapping paper and lifted the lid off the box.
"Oh my God. You did not."
"I sure as heck did, Jelly Belly, and I expect a review."
They burst out laughing. Kagan lifted the slim pink adult toy that hooked left — or right depending on how you looked at it — and the giggles kept coming. "How long is this thing?" she asked when the shaking in her shoulders subsided.
"Extra." Charlotte barely suppressed her amusement, her voice breathless. She eyed the gift like it might start shimmying all on its own before she cracked up again.
"You are a bad girl," Kagan said, trying not to think about how long it had been since she'd spent any time with the real thing. Her thoughts floated to Shane Sullivan. He'd starred in several of her fantasies over the past few months.
Okay, he'd been the lead in all of them, with his square jaw, dazzling blue-gray eyes, and dark, neat hair that she really wanted to mess with her fingers. Not to mention he had a rock hard body that put all other bodies to shame. But she had no plans to act on the urges he stirred. For one, he held the title of first-rate flirt and town Casanova, and every single girl in a twenty-mile radius had set her sights on him. And two, she'd come to Cascade to be invisible until she worked out who she really wanted to be. She couldn't even think about being with someone until she figured herself out.
Her skin heated. Even thinking about grazing Shane's arm did unsettling things to her insides. They were acquaintances. Maybe even friends. But nothing more would come from their association.
"On a regular basis," Charlotte said, tossing her long, wavy black hair over her shoulder. "And since you've decided to steer clear of men, I needed to corrupt you somehow."
"I can always count on you."
"For everything." Charlotte's features softened and she looked carefully at Kagan. "You know that, right?" That silly emotion swiped at the back of her throat again. "I know. Thanks for sticking around even when I haven't made it easy." Being close to people had never come naturally. Growing up the daughter of a famous actor turned business magnate, her mom had kept her sheltered and taught Kagan to keep her guard up.
"We pinky swore when we were ten that we'd be best friends forever, and I take my promises very seriously."
Kagan did too. And she'd promised herself a new life.
After her mother died, she'd done exactly as her father wanted. Since she'd been fifteen she'd let him dictate everything in her life because it was easier than confrontation. She'd handled the loss of her mother with silent suffering and a need to please the parent she had left. Her father handled losing his wife by controlling everything around him.
"You are hands down the world's best friend, and I love you." She put her present back in the box and wrapped Charlotte in a hug. "This has been the best birthday in a long time."
Charlotte stood. "It's not over yet. Let's cut into this cake." She took all the candles off, picked up the knife on the table, and sliced the small round confection right down the middle. "To many more happy birthdays." She passed Kagan one half and dug into her piece like they hadn't just gorged themselves on shrimp gumbo take-out.
The sweet, sugary goodness blew all other cakes out of the water and Kagan sighed in pleasure. "I should have gotten a job at Crem's instead of the Crown & Anchor. What was I thinking working in a bar instead of a bakery?"
"You were thinking about which would upset your dad more." Charlotte pointed her fork at Kagan.
"You're right. He'd have a fit if he found out I was working as a waitress in a bar, wouldn't he?"
"I'm not sure if 'fit' is the right word."
They shared a conspiratorial grin before laughing. Kagan hated to admit that knowing her father would look down on her job and new surroundings made them both more satisfying.
Besides, she liked being a waitress. She liked the regulars who came in and treated her like everybody else.
She liked giving Milt, her crotchety old boss, a hard time. And she loved having less pressure. She showed up, did her job, and left. Usually with a few dozen thanks.
Appreciation felt damn good. As one of the directors of marketing for her father's multi-million-dollar corporation, she'd been expected to put in as many hours as necessary to increase visibility on a weekly basis and promote dozens of endeavors without so much as a nod in gratitude.
Flirting with guys who had no idea she was Fred Donaldson's daughter felt good too. Not that she had any plans to go beyond friendly words. They may not know about her money or social status, but starting a relationship was the last thing on her mind.
Shane's killer smile flashed in her mind. The first time they'd met he'd written his phone number on the palm of her hand. She hadn't washed it off for three days trying to decide whether to jot it down on a piece of paper or forget that he made her legs weak.
She shook her head to rid those crazy thoughts. She'd promised herself not to let anyone get too close, even if Shane wanted her for nothing more than a scratch to his itch. Going home to New York was always in the back of her mind. Her lease was up in two months. And even though hooking up with the town playboy would just be physical for him, she didn't work that way. She couldn't get involved and then leave.
So the few rides home from work when her car was in the shop and a handful of shared minutes around town when she bumped into Shane did not mean anything more than an amiable association.
The erotic dreams she'd had of him didn't count. And she quickly extinguished thinking about the one she'd had the other night where Shane wore nothing but —
"Earth to Kagan." Charlotte snapped her fingers. "Did you hear what I said?"
"Sorry. No." She stuffed a piece of cake in her mouth to buy herself a few seconds to gather her wits.
"What's going on?"
"Nothing is going on."
"I've spent the past forty-eight hours waiting for you to tell me, but as usual, I have to drag it out of you." She glanced at the silver and diamond watch on her wrist. "And my plane leaves in three hours so start talking."
Kagan slouched in her chair and tucked her hair behind her ear. Charlotte always could read her. "I left New York to be anonymous while I figured things out and it's been great here. No one knows who I really am. But I still don't know what I want to do, and standing up to my dad when I go back isn't an option without a plan. He'll just put all the same unreasonable demands on me again, and I hate the thought of being back in New York if I'm not on speaking terms with him."
Charlotte put her fork down and crossed her arms as she leaned back in her chair. "I'm sorry, Kay. What can I do?"
Kagan let out a deep breath and then smiled at her best friend. "You're already doing it."
"Look, don't put so much pressure on yourself. Without your dad breathing down your neck, you'll figure things out. Once you do, he'll listen. He does love you."
"I know. And I — "
The doorbell rang, cutting her off. She had no idea who it could be and hopped up to answer it. The second she opened the door every muscle in her body tensed and her heart stopped.
She'd been found.
"Hello, Kay," Brett said. "Happy birthday." He held a bouquet of flowers in his hand and wore a smile that might have excited most girls, but at the moment made her want to be sick. He was her father's chief financial analyst and the son he never had. She'd been his friend — until her father decided he wanted them to marry.
She gripped the edge of the door and leaned against it. "How did you find me?"
"Did you really think we wouldn't?"
Charlotte appeared at her side. "Brett? Oh shit." She canted her head down and put a hand on her forehead.
"You had me followed, didn't you? Kay, I'm so sorry."
"I have nothing to say to you," Kagan warned Brett.
He handed her the flowers. "Give me ten minutes, Kay."
Reluctantly, she let him in. She had no idea how her legs didn't buckle underneath the discomfort of seeing him. They sat in her living room, Charlotte by her side, Brett across from them.
"What are you doing here?" Kagan asked, in no mood for small talk.
"Your father sent me to talk to you."
Without thought, Kagan said, "How is he?" Despite her father's iron fist, she did miss him. He wanted things his way, but Kagan knew his sense of control was what kept him from losing his composure. Her mother's unexpected death had changed him too.
"He's well given the circumstances. He's pretty upset you dropped the Donaldson and are using Owens."
"He didn't leave me much choice."
Brett rested his elbows on his knees. "You were gone in the blink of an eye, Kay. No word. No good-bye. Just gone. You can imagine the painful memories that stirred up ... losing the person he loves more than anyone else."
Her breath hitched. She hadn't thought of it that way, had never compared her running away to her mom's sudden death from a brain tumor. "I sent him a letter." Telling him she'd had to leave before she suffocated, before she lost what little scrap of herself she had left.
Before he forced her to marry the man sitting across from her.
"He wants you to come home," Brett said. "I want you to come home. There's nothing keeping you here. Small town doesn't suit a city girl like you."
"I'm not going back. Not yet."
"Yet?" He sounded hopeful, and Kagan didn't want to mislead him. Her father had no jurisdiction over her love life and the fact that Brett went along with the idea of marriage even though they'd never been romantically involved really riled her, but she never wanted to hurt his feelings.
She swallowed the lump in her throat. "I have a boyfriend," she blurted out. "And it's serious."CHAPTER 2
Shane Sullivan hated complications.
He'd mastered keeping his job and personal life simple and straightforward, although he used entirely different skills working toward the end goal.
With his hands behind his head, he relaxed against the leather desk chair in his corner office. He loved his job as project manager for Burke & Associates, one of the largest architectural firms on the west coast. For the past eighteen months, he'd happily spent ten- to twelve-hour days as point person on The Duchess, Cascade's new oceanfront boutique hotel. The grand opening was set for this weekend, and he'd just deflected a major hiccup.
Three, two, one.
His boss flew into his office with a mega-watt smile on her warm and attractive face. Her joy lit a firecracker of pride inside Shane and he leaned forward on his desk, thrilled to work for and learn from this smart and creative woman.
"You did it again," Belinda Burke said. "Thanks for getting us out of what could have been some painful financial loss." She extended her hand. "Not to mention an unhappy client."
Shane stood and shook hands, the older woman hanging on longer than necessary. "It's my job."
"Yeah, well, no one knows details like you do. Keep this up and I'll have no choice but to make you vice president."
"You won't regret it." His pulse turned a brisk tempo. Getting that kind of promotion at his age was unheard of. He wanted it. He wanted it bad. By some stroke of amazing luck, he'd found something he loved and excelled at. The townspeople of Cascade thought he was nothing but a flirt and confirmed bachelor, but he had another side, that of a dedicated employee who worked his ass off to keep Burke & Associates at the top of their field.
Belinda laughed. "No doubt." She stepped back from Shane's desk. "Mrs. Huston made sure I knew she thought you were a dream to work with."
"Did she?" He smirked. Mrs. Huston, wife of hotel magnate Duke Huston, was "the duchess." This afternoon Shane might have used his charm to alleviate a mistake that had left the hotel's fifty-something namesake none too happy.
Excerpted from Her Accidental Boyfriend by Robin Bielman, Wendy Chen, Stacy Abrams. Copyright © 2013 Robin Bielman. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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