The sweetest temptation
Sophie Sullivan fell head over heels for Jake McCann at the age of five. Twenty years later, the notorious bad boy still sees her as the "nice" Sullivan twin. When they both get caught up in the magic of the first Sullivan wedding, she knows it's time to make him see her for who she truly is the woman who will love him forever.
Jake has always been a magnet for women, but the only woman he really wants is the one he can never have. Not only is Sophie his best friend's off-limits sister he can't risk letting her get close enough to discover his deeply hidden secret.
But when Sophie appears on his doorstep, Jake's every fantasy comes to life, and he doesn't have a hope of taking his eyes, or hands, off her. Jake knows loving Sophie isn't the right thing to do, but one look at her and he knows he can't possibly resist.
About the Author
New York Times bestselling author Bella Andre is known for “sensual, empowered stories enveloped in heady romance” (Publishers Weekly). Winner of the Award of Excellence, the Washington Post has called her “one of the top digital writers in America.” Married with two children, Bella splits her time between Northern California and the Adirondacks. You can visit Bella online at www.BellaAndre.com.
Read an Excerpt
Sophie Sullivan surveyed the final wedding preparations with satisfaction. She'd spent the past several months putting together the details for her brother's wedding and it was wonderful to see it all come together so perfectly.
In less than two hours, Chase and his fiancée, Chloe, would be saying "I do" beneath rose-covered arches with three hundred guests looking on. The Napa Valley vineyard owned by her oldest brother, Marcus, was not only the perfect backdrop for the wedding, but was also where Chase and Chloe had first met and fallen in love.
The catering staff Sophie had hired was busy in the on-site kitchen. The florist was putting the finishing touches on the flowers that ran up both sides of the aisle and the beautiful bouquets at the center of each of the tables in the reception area. The weather was perfect with blue skies and a few puffy white clouds lazily floating by. The vineyards were bursting with green leaves and budding grapes, and the mustard flowers between the rows of vines were a stunning burst of golden color all across the seemingly endless hills of grapevines.
The bride and the other bridesmaids were already in the guesthouse having their hair and makeup done. Sophie should have been there getting ready with them half an hour ago, but she'd wanted to first make sure that everything outside was perfect. Which was why she was still standing out in the vineyard wearing jeans tucked into boots, a long blue sweater and a hat over hair she hadn't bothered with that morning because she knew the stylist would take care of it for her.
Sophie was a librarian, not a wedding planner, but she'd leaped at the chance to help plan Chase's wedding, and it had been so much fun. Well, apart from all those meetings with
"Hey, Nice, looking good."
Every muscle in Sophie's body tensed at hearing the low drawl from behind her.
Her brother Zach's closest friend and the object of twenty years of her unrequited love.
Of course, not once in those twenty years had she ever been anything more to him than Zach's little sister. What's more, she knew darn well that she wasn't "looking good" right then in clothes she'd put on to move furniture and heavy containers of flowers all morning.
Barely stifling a frustrated sigh, she replied, "My name is Sophie, not Nice," without turning to face him. She'd reminded him of this at least a hundred times over the years, but he still persisted in calling her by her nickname.
It was one thing when her brothers called her Nice and it was another entirely when Jake said it. Especially when, in her secret dreams, she was naughty and wild and the woman he couldn't believe he'd lived without for so long.
She felt him move closer, his innate heat searing her even from several feet away. She'd always been overly attuned to him, instantly alert to his presence in a room. As a little girl, she'd made excuses to hang out with her older brothers just to be near Jake, keeping extra quiet so no one would remember she was there while they played in the tree fort or shot pool in the basement while making off-color jokes that she didn't understand until she was a great deal older.
The urge to turn and drink him in, to lose herself in the spark of wicked in his chocolate-brown eyes, was so strong she almost gave in. Of course, she knew every inch of Jake's face by heart, having spent most of her childhood staring at him when she didn't think he was looking. His jaw was square and his nose had a couple of bumps on it that she knew were from fights he'd been in.
So instead of looking at him, she forced herself to keep her gaze trained on the outdoor seating area, watching the florists make final adjustments to the arrangements and the caterers rush trays of food in from their vans to Marcus's industrial-size kitchen. Regardless of what she actually felt for Jake, Sophie's pride insisted that she do her best to act as if she didn't care one way or another if he was there or not.
"Hard to believe the day has finally come." He paused, and she could hear the humor mixed with a faint disdain in his voice as he finished, "A Sullivan is actually taking the plunge."
Sophie was known as the clearheaded, soft-spoken one in the family, the one who always thought things through before taking action. She'd never been prone to outbursts or to giving in to crazy inner urgings. That was her twin sister Lo-ri's territory, which was why Lori's nickname was Naughty and Sophie's was Nice. But Sophie rarely felt levelheaded anymore around Jake.
How could she when her heart always beat too fast at the thought of what it would feel like to be in his arms or because he was making her angry with some macho comment? Usually both at the same time. Just as he was doing right now. He was utterly infuriating but so darn desirable that even though she knew she had to be crazy for wanting him the way she did, she'd never been able to stop the way she felt.
Hating how out of control he made her feel, her fingers curled into fists as she lost the battle with acting aloof and whirled around to face him.
Unfortunately for her traitorous hormones, Jake was more gorgeous than ever in his tuxedo. His crisp white dress shirt opened up just enough at the neck for her to see the dark hair curling up at the vee of his chest. His tattoos were covered up, but just knowing they were hidden behind a thin layer of fabric sent a kick of forbidden desire rushing through her. God, what she wouldn't give to see his tattoos up close, to have hours to run her fingers over his naked skin and study the ink imprinted into his skin.
"Chase and Chloe are in love," she told him in a sharp voice made even sharper by her disappointment with herself for not being even the slightest bit unaffected by Jake's good looks. "Their wedding is going to be beautiful and perfect and incredibly romantic."
It was even more beautiful and perfect and romantic that Chloe was pregnant and absolutely glowing. Sophie couldn't wait to babysit, to endlessly spoil her niece or nephew. Jake's mouth moved up into a half smile at her emphatic statement. "It's going to be one hell of a party, at least."
What was wrong with him? Sophie wondered for what had to be the thousandth time in twenty years. How could he look at a lifetime of love and only see the party?
Then again, given the fact that he blew through women at a shockingly fast rate, it wasn't hard to guess that he was one of those imbeciles who didn't believe in love. A rich, good-looking guy like Jake McCann would just be in it for the sex. She should know better than to give him even five minutes of her time. And yet if it were that easy, if love was that rational, then she likely would have found another man to fall in love with years ago.
Unfortunately, when it came to her feelings for Jake, rational had absolutely nothing to do with them, and never had.
Even worse, thinking about sex and Jake at the same time always made her go hot all over, and now was no different. Sophie was neither a virgin nor a prude, despite what people might otherwise assume about librarians. On the contrary, if people knew just how well-read she was on the subject of sex, they would likely be shocked. Especially Jake.
Wouldn't it be something to shock Jake, who clearly thought he had written the book on seduction?
Darn it, by now she should know better than to let her fantasies run away with her where Jake was concerned, even if her body had stupidly fallen in lust with him from the first stirring of teenage hormones. And still, she couldn't help but breathe in his scent, a faint hint of hops and something she'd never been able to categorize beyond night and darkness.
She moved to straighten an already perfectly straight chair. "I checked over the bar setup earlier and it looks like everything is in place." She'd planned on hiring a professional bar service for the wedding, but Jake had insisted on covering that aspect of the wedding himself. He owned a chain of Irish pubs, and despite the fact that he was incredibly successful with his businesses, she hadn't been quite sure how he'd pull off a bar at a formal wedding.
Now that she'd seen what he'd done, she grudgingly had to admit, "You've done a good job with it. A really good job."
She could feel his dark eyes on her as he said, "So have you, with this entire wedding." Again he gave her that half smile that made her stomach do flip-flops. "You sure I can't hire you to run my pubs? I could always use someone like you to whip the things into even better shape."
A burst of pleasure at his compliments shot through her, warming her all over. That was the problem with Jake. Even when she was irritated with him, even though he'd never return her feelings for him in a million, billion years, she couldn't help but be charmed by him. Sophie and every other woman on the planet, it often seemed.
Still, knowing she'd never forgive herself if she melted into a gooey puddle of lust in the middle of Marcus's vineyard, she simply told him, "I'd miss my books too much, thanks."
All her life, Sophie had had stacks of books in every room and she'd recently embraced the digital age and gotten an e-reader that fit in her purse. She'd gone to Stanford University and come out with a combined degree in English literature and Library Science that she'd put together herself with the help of an adviser who loved books just as much as she did. As soon as she'd graduated from college, she'd applied to work for the San Francisco Public Library. She knew she could have made much more money working for a university library, or applying her research and cataloging skills to one of the high-tech startups throughout the Bay Area, but she'd always wanted to be a librarian. Even if her apartment was on the small side and she'd never be rich, she hadn't regretted her decision for a second.
Knowing that prolonging her close proximity to Jake in this uberromantic setting would only mess with her head, she said, "I'd better get over to the guesthouse." But just as she was turning to go, a sudden gust of wind whipped her baseball cap off her head.
Jake reached out and caught it by the brim before she even had time to react. "Got it."
He moved in front of her and slid a lock of dark hair that had caught on her mouth back under the hat as he settled it into place. Her cheek tingled from the gentle brush of skin on skin and she nervously licked her lips. She couldn't remember the last time he'd touched her. It wasn't that he wasn't an affectionate man, it was just that he'd always seemed to steer clear of touching her.
His hands stilled on the brim of her hat, his dark eyes turning almost jet-black as his gaze held on her mouth. Neither of them moved for several moments, but then, suddenly, he was stepping back from her, the slightly cool wine-country air pushing in where his heat had been just seconds before.
"You might want to tighten it down so it doesn't blow off again," he told her before quickly scanning her outfit with a frown. "Aren't you one of Chloe's maids of honor? What are you still doing wearing that?" Still working to catch her breath from the shock of his touch, it took far longer than it should have for her to register his question. She couldn't miss the mocking tone, however.
Months ago, when Jake had volunteered to run the bar at Chase and Chloe's wedding, she'd impulsively decided to teach him a lesson about his arrogance, along with the way he insisted on continuing to look at her as little more than a child, rather than a fully grown woman. She'd planned to make him want her, to somehow figure out a way to make him desperate with longing before she scorned him, leaving him high and dry for the first time in his life.
But had she made good on those big plans to attract and then reject Jake in the past four months?
"Yes, I am," she finally replied, her words a hard snap of breath and teeth. "Everyone else is getting dressed, but I needed to check on a few final things first."
The perfect planes of his face shifted again from frown to scowl, before settling back into indifference. "Now that you know everything is perfect, you'd better go get pretty, then, shouldn't you, princess?"
Jake's harsh words landed with a hard thud between them. She didn't know if he'd intended to hurt her with the implication that it would take some time, along with a good amount of effort, to pretty her up but whether or not that had been his intent, that was exactly what he'd just done.
A few minutes ago she'd felt proud of what she'd accomplished with Chase and Chloe's wedding. Now, that pride was all but erased by the way Jake looked at her and clearly found her so wanting, so utterly devoid of female allure. Because even though she knew better than to care, even though she knew better than to give him the power to hurt her, a handful of his careless words did more damage than anything else ever could have.