Former military man and single dad Mark Matthews is focused on making his daughter’s life the best he possibly can. Between work and taking care of his little girl, dating and any kind of love life is off the table. Until his one-night stand with the quiet but sexy Daisy O’Rourke, who is as secretive as she is beautiful. So when he runs into her at their friends’ wedding, Mark realizes Daisy is worth the chase…
Each book in the Shillings Agency series is STANDALONE:
* Temporarily Yours
* Stealing His Heart
* Seducing the Princess
* Taking What's His
* Say You're Mine
* His Best Mistake
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
His Best Mistake
A Shillings Agency novel
By Diane Alberts
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2016 Diane Alberts
All rights reserved.
He's been dead for two years. Two long, lonely years.
At times, it was almost impossible to believe it had been that long since she lost him, and at others ... it felt all too possible. She missed him more and more every day. If anything, the pain just deepened and split her open inside, like a huge, jagged chasm that would never go away no matter how much time passed.
"Next up on the Augusta Eye Witness News, tragedy on Sixth Street." The newscaster on the television gave a half smile, her pink-lipstick-coated mouth parting to show perfectly white teeth. "Police were dispatched to a home on the fourteenth block of Greene Street today in response to a domestic disturbance. Authorities say a man held his wife at gunpoint, but the Maine State Police were able to end the standoff with no casualties. More to come on the eleven o'clock news tonight."
Daisy tightened her grip on her empty martini glass, frowning down at the cast on her arm. "You see that? Look what we're missing."
A month ago, she'd been on a case similar to that one. The perp had been an abusive husband who'd been two bottles of cheap whiskey into a binge. When she'd tried to take him down, he evaded her on a fire escape, and when she tried to follow him, she'd slipped on the wet metal and her arm snapped like a twig. So now she was stuck on desk duty until it healed, while the asshole who'd thought beating his wife and then fleeing down a wet fire escape had been a good idea walked free ... after his wife dropped charges.
It killed her that she wasn't out on the streets, doing what she did best ... saving lives. Without her job, without her passion, she was floundering in the middle of the ocean without even a hope of a rescue boat coming along to save her. It was who she was.
And now she was stuck with nothing.
Her phone buzzed, and she glanced down at the text.
It was her best friend, Lauren. Are you there yet?
Daisy rolled her eyes and picked up the phone. Yes, mother.
I can't help it that I'm worried about you.
Relax. I'm at a hotel less than an hour away from you. It's not like I ran away to live in a foreign jungle with Tarzan.
The reply was immediate. I wish you would run away with Tarzan. You need some action.
No, I need peace and quiet.
Three dots popped up, and then: Fine. Whatever. Enjoy it. I'll be there late tomorrow morning. See you then?
I'll be here.
Though she still wasn't really sure why she was here in the first place. She knew the couple getting married tomorrow, sure, but not well enough to be invited to their wedding. The only reason she was on the list was because she was friends with Lauren, whose fiancé worked for the groom as a private security agent at The Shillings Agency, and that somehow gained her an invite.
She'd take it.
God knew she could use a break from her normal life ... which was why she was at the hotel a day early. Living with a roommate who was also on the force was both a blessing and a curse. Lately, it had been more curse than blessing. It was just ... she just felt so ...
The news music played, and Daisy glanced up again.
"Good evening," the newscaster said. "Tonight, our head story is a tragic crash on Werner Street that ended in a horrifying death. A gray sedan was driving —"
That's just what I needed tonight. Another reminder of what I've loved and lost. Thanks, Universe. I needed that.
Turning away, Daisy blinked rapidly and held her glass up to the bartender. She didn't usually drink, with good reason, but tonight was an exception to that rule. And it was time for another one. And then maybe another. Her plan was to drink until it didn't hurt anymore ... as many as it took. Like father, like daughter, she supposed.
As the server made his way over, someone sat beside her. Daisy glanced over, already annoyed because she wasn't here to flirt, or talk, or make friends. She was here to forget.
But then she locked gazes with the deepest, darkest, prettiest brown eyes she'd ever seen, and any irritation at the interruption of her emo mood was shattered. The man next to her was tall, impossibly so. Even though he was sitting down, she'd easily place him at six foot three or more. He had blond hair, which looked as if he constantly ran his fingers through it all day long, and stubble darkened his jaw ... which had a freaking dimple in it. He glanced over at her and froze, his eyes narrowing when he caught her staring.
Cheeks heating, she turned away as fast as she could, breathing quickly. Her stomach tightened into a knot, and she stiffened because this was a feeling she hadn't experienced in two years.
Ever since ...
"Hello," the man next to her said, offering an easy smile. Damn it, he was even hotter when he smiled. Why couldn't he have crooked teeth, or an even more crooked smile? Couldn't the universe do her one teensy weensy favor and make this guy a little less attractive?
"Mind if I sit here?" he asked quietly, his voice filled with deep respect. She had the feeling he was the type of guy who would never raise his voice in anger. Never lose his cool.
She happened to like men who were calm in the face of chaos.
"And if I politely decline?" she asked, like she always did when men hit on her in bars. It always made them shrink away and seek out easier targets.
He blinked. "Then I'd politely sit and drink my drink without bothering you, one seat over this way, because I want to watch the game, and the TV is over here."
Gah! That was the perfect response.
Tucking her probably frizzy hair behind her ear, she forced a cool smile despite her racing heart. "I'm not saving the seat for anyone, so feel free to sit where you want."
"Excellent." He set his phone down on the bar next to hers. "How are you tonight?"
"Good. Great. Wonderful."
A smile played at his lips again. "You're empty."
How did he know? "What?"
"Your glass." He pointed at it. His fingers were long and lean, yet somehow strong, and coated with a light dusting of blond hair. "It's empty."
She tore her eyes off his fingers, pressing a hand to her stomach, which felt a hell of a lot emptier than her glass. Get over yourself, Daisy. They're just fingers. "Oh. Right. I was about to get another."
"Excellent." When the bartender came up, the guy next to her gestured at her glass. "We'll have two of whatever she's having."
The bartender started to walk away, but she held up a hand and he stopped, smiling flirtatiously at her. He'd been acting interested all night, but it hadn't done a thing to her insides. Not like the guy beside her had within seconds of arriving. Ugh.
"You might want to rethink that, sir. I'm having a cosmo," Daisy said, eyeing the man who'd managed to turn her on ... or upside down ... whatever. "It's pink. And frothy."
The man hesitated, laughing. "Uh ... I happen to like pink drinks."
"No, you don't," she said, tapping her fingers on the bar, and shooting him what was hopefully a playful smile, but probably came off more like a hyena on the prowl because she didn't have a single frigging playful bone in her body and never had. "You're just trying to play along. Act cool. Pretend not to be emasculated by the threat of a pink drink. Go on — get a whiskey instead, if you want. I won't think less of you."
Yep. That totally came out as more of a challenge than a flirtatious reply.
Daisy: 0. Hot guy: 1.
"Two cosmos, please. The pinker, the better." After the bartender headed off, hot guy leaned in, shooting her an easygoing grin. "It happens to be my favorite color."
She lifted a brow. "Is that so?"
"Yeah." He lifted his leg. "I'll prove it."
Daisy blinked down at it in confusion. "What —?"
"See?" He rested the bottom of his black shoe on the side of her bar stool, lifting his pants leg. His socks were gray-and-pink plaid. "Told ya."
A laugh escaped her. She couldn't help it ... but she did choke it off right away. It felt wrong, being amused by another man, today of all days. "Okay. Fine. I get it. You like pink. I do, too."
"Is it your favorite color?" He smiled. "Because if it is, we already have something in common."
Fighting back a smile, because he was so refreshing and playful and different from the men she usually met at bars, she shook her head. "Sorry."
He held a hand to his heart. "Darling, you're killing me. Please say it's not blue."
"It's not," she said, laughing, then pointed to the purse sitting next to her phone on the bar. "It's yellow."
He eyed her purse. "Yellow?"
"Yep. Guilty as charged. Guess we don't have anything in common after all." She lifted a shoulder and shoved her hair behind her ear again. To the left of them, a gorgeous blonde who was perfectly put together from head to toe watched the man next to her with hungry eyes. Daisy forced her focus off the other woman uncomfortably, because she had a feeling her eyes were just as hungry, and she didn't like that. "Sorry."
"I don't think I'd say that ..." He lowered his foot, watching her closely. The way he looked at her, all heated stare and hard jawline, made her stomach tighten enough to scare the crap out of her. She didn't know this guy — didn't need to be feeling things she had no interest in feeling.
It was time to end this flirtation before she did something stupid ...
Like kiss him.
After a few seconds of silence on her part, he cleared his throat and held his hand out. "Since we exchanged favorite colors, I guess I should introduce myself? My name is —"
"Don't," Daisy inserted quickly, her tone tinged with a little bit of panic. The second she learned his name, she would never forget it ... or him. It's better not knowing.
His brow furrowed. "Don't what?"
"Don't do your spiel on me. The flirting. The smiles. The shared laughs. It won't work." She pushed his hand down, not shaking it. "You don't have to tell me your name, either."
He frowned. "Okay. I was just —"
"Look. You're a nice guy and all, but I'm not the kind of girl who is going to go back to your room and show you if my panties match my purse. And I don't need to know if your boxers match your socks." She gestured to his feet, her cheeks on fire because, God, this is why she didn't go out with guys, or engage in idle conversations with them at the bar. She wasn't ready. Plus, she sucked at small talk. And flirting. And, you know, being cute and friendly. "I'm not that girl. I'm just a girl in a bar, drinking a few drinks, before I go back to my room ... alone."
When he didn't say anything, just stared at her, she did the worst thing possible.
She started blabbering, because she and awkward silence were not friends.
"I'm not being a bitch. I just don't play games, and you seem like a nice guy, so I don't want to waste your time. If you're looking to get laid tonight, you'll have better luck with the blonde in the corner. She's watching you like she's just waiting for me to walk away so she can pounce." She pointed at her, not even bothering to hide it. "I bet she'll like your socks."
"Wait." He blinked, shifting back, but not leaving. "Are you saying that you don't like my socks?"
"I ..." She opened her mouth, closed it, opened it again, and nothing came out. Because out of all the things she said, he focused on that? "I ... I like them. They're perfectly nice socks."
"So you do like my socks?"
She let out a nervous laugh. "Yeah. Sure. I like your socks. But that's not the —"
"Oh, thank God." He gave her an easy smile. How did he do that? Look so ... so ... casually hot? "I was about to get up and walk away." The bartender came over with their drinks, and he paid before she could even open her purse. "Thank you," he said to the server, who nodded and left them alone again.
She wasn't sure what this dude's game was, but if he walked away because she'd told him he wouldn't get laid, that would say a lot about him.
He turned back to her, still smiling. When he saw her staring at him speculatively, he sighed. "Look, I didn't come over here to get you naked in my bed. I came over to talk to you because, to be honest, you looked a little sad. And I hate seeing women sad."
She swallowed hard, not sure what to say to that because he was right. She was sad, but it wasn't something she wanted to talk about, especially with a stranger.
When she remained silent, he shifted closer. "If you don't mind, I'd like to keep talking to you. But if you'd rather be alone, I'll take my pink drink, and slide over a seat or two to give you space. I'm not interested in the blonde woman. I'm interested in you, and making you smile a few times, if you'll let me."
She should send this guy packing, because he was tempting her in ways she wasn't ready to be tempted. She opened her mouth, and the stupidest thing she'd ever said came out instead. "I'd like that. You can stay."CHAPTER 2
Mark couldn't take his eyes off the woman next to him. She had deep red hair, and bright green eyes that honestly pulled him closer to her in ways he didn't understand or even want to understand. The second he walked in to the hotel bar, his gaze had fallen on her sitting there with a cast on her arm, looking seconds from either punching something, or bursting into tears, and he hadn't been able to ignore the urge to walk up to her, sit down, and say something witty to get her attention.
Because, fuck, he needed her attention.
So ... he'd settled for ordering pink drinks.
Smooth. Real smooth.
But still, he couldn't regret his choice. After all, she hadn't denied being sad, and he hadn't been lying. He hated seeing women looking so upset. More than likely she was down because some dude she'd loved had broken her heart. That's usually how love ended.
Life was too short to lose time to that emotion.
He'd learned that the hard way.
Smiling, he settled back into his seat and tugged on his collar. "Okay. Good. I'm —"
"Don't." She pulled on a long curl, staring at him without a hint of flirtation or pretense. "I still don't want to know your name," she said flatly. "At all."
There was something about her, and the way she just blurted out whatever the hell she was thinking, that called to him. She was refreshingly honest in a sea storm of false smiles and even emptier promises he'd encountered ever since his wife, Tina, died ... and left him alone in the world with a three-year-old daughter who happened to love pink socks. "Then how about we give each other fake names, just so I can call you something in my head besides 'pretty woman'?"
She laughed but cut it off quickly. "Uh ... okay."
"Excellent. I'll call you ..." He leaned back and considered her. Long legs that went on for miles. A waist that cinched in before flaring out gently for her hips. Breasts that looked as if they'd fit in his palms perfectly. She was, hands down, the prettiest woman he'd ever met, besides — he shut that thought off right away. Tonight wasn't about her. "Scarlett."
She choked on a laugh. "Seriously?"
"Is it the red hair?" she asked drily.
"Yeah. I've always had a thing for Black Widow, and she had red, curly hair like yours." He reached out and tugged a curl gently. She sucked in a breath and held it, staring at him with wide eyes. "Shorter, but still. Scarlett it is."
"All right, then." She leaned closer, giving him the same careful inspection he'd given her. It didn't escape his notice that her new position lifted her breasts and offered a delicious display of cleavage for him to enjoy. He shifted uncomfortably, his body coming to life a little bit too enthusiastically. "In keeping with the Marvel theme, you'll be ... Chris. Or Tom. Nah. Definitely Chris."
"Hold up." His interest in her kicked up about twenty notches. "Don't tell me you like superheroes. Or, even better, all of their movies ... even The Avengers?"
"Guilty as charged."
"That's it, Scarlett. I'm keeping you. You don't have a choice. I found a beautiful woman who likes superheroes. That's the mecca of the dating world." He grinned and lifted his pink drink. "To our happy future together."
For a second, he saw panic gathering in her eyes, and he thought he'd taken the joke one step too far. But then she picked up her drink, clinked it to his, and said, "To Chris and Scarlett."
They both took a sip, and Mark winced. It tasted like a damn lollipop. "This is ..." Sweet. Horrible. Alcohol-less. "Good."
She laughed and took it out of his hand, lifting her arm as she slid his sweet drink toward her other one. The bartender came back immediately. "He'll have a double shot of whiskey, neat."
"How'd you know I liked it neat?" he asked, not even bothering to argue because that pink shit was not his thing.
"I had a feeling."
She stared down at the cosmos, spinning his in a slow, careful circle. As he watched, she lifted it and took a sip out of his glass, her lips touching where his had been moments before.
Excerpted from His Best Mistake by Diane Alberts. Copyright © 2016 Diane Alberts. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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