Imperfect Penelope

Imperfect Penelope

by Sami Lee

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781640630956
Publisher: Entangled Publishing, LLC
Publication date: 08/21/2017
Series: Wild Crush , #4
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 150
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Sami Lee is an award-winning author of over twenty novels and novellas. Some are sweet, many scorching hot and all are romantic at heart (she hardly ever writes about snakes now). She loves to write about strong, independent women and the confident men who are intrepid enough to fall in love with them. She lives in Australia with her husband, two stupendous daughters and a mischievous cat named Bobby, who, along with writing, all keep her pretty busy. Long walks on the beach and quiet afternoons reading are her bliss—that and writing that one perfect scene that reminds her why she started writing in the first place.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

Smoking cigars was a nasty habit. As was drinking good scotch and chasing fine women, but Aaron Sanderson had never found adequate motivation to quit doing any of them. Which was how he came to find himself indulging in two of his favorite vices at the beach early one morning. He was parked in his weathered Jeep Cherokee, puffing away on a Cohiba he'd selected from his secret glove-compartment stash, when the finest specimen of female flesh that ever set foot in Leyton's Headland came into view.

What else could a man do but sit back and admire?

The woman stood down at the shore, staring out at the waves. Her back was to him, but Aaron would know those legs and the silken tresses of midnight hair anywhere. She was Jasmine Campbell, star of most of his long-ago teenage wet dreams, prodigal daughter of a prominent heart surgeon and, from all reports, perennially single. She'd returned to Leyton's over a month ago to help out at her sister's naturopathy practice, which just happened to be across the street from Aaron's real estate agency. As such, he had caught more than one glimpse of her. He just hadn't figured out how to approach her yet.

You didn't simply walk up to a woman like Jasmine and ask her out. Her Filipino heritage had given her an exceptional beauty that drew men to her, so no doubt she got hit on continuously. No, Aaron had to come up with something different, something original.

He wondered what she was doing down on the beach at this hour. She wore a short-sleeved red shift dress that covered her only to mid-thigh. In the morning breeze, the silky fabric plastered itself to her body, showing Aaron teasing glimpses of her curves. She carried a pair of red heels in one hand, a handbag in another. She was dressed like she hadn't been to bed all night.

Or at least like she hadn't been to her own bed.

Aaron was considering going down there and striking up a conversation about what she'd been up to, when any attempts he might have made to conjure a great pick-up line flew away like a seagull on the downdraft. He watched, his cigar turning to ash between his fingers, as Jasmine grabbed the hem of her dress and whipped it over her head, tossing it onto the sand beside her.

"Holy shit," Aaron breathed, afraid to move a muscle.

Black lingerie. Was there any finer sight than that of a beautiful woman in black lingerie? He studied the way her breasts pressed against the lacy cups of her bra as she turned side-on. They almost spilled out of the garment as she bent over and set her bag and shoes on top of the dress.

Then she turned, her back to him again, and he got a perfect view of her round ass, covered only in a flimsy pair of black panties. Aaron was busy picturing how easy such an insubstantial pair of knickers would be to rip off Jasmine's delectable body, when she broke into an abrupt sprint, heading straight for the ocean.

She dove beneath the waves, no fear, no hesitation, only kamikaze determination as she submerged herself. She came up again almost immediately, her spluttered curse words drifting toward Aaron on the morning quiet.

He laughed. The woman was insane. It was mid-autumn and the Pacific was cold today. He'd just come out of the water himself, having gotten halfway through his morning ritual of jog, surf, smoke, shower, buy coffee, head to the office. He was a man who had his priorities straight. The chill in the surf had been breathtaking even with a wetsuit on. He couldn't imagine how freezing it was in panties and bra.

Teeny-tiny panties and a sheer lacy bra. Damned if he wasn't sitting in his car with a hard-on straining against the damp rubber of his suit. If someone walked by right now, he'd have a difficult time explaining himself. Not that anyone was likely to. This stretch of beach was not the most popular in Leyton's Headland, it being surrounded by rocky hills that made it harder to get to than most. Still, local surfers often came here in search of the perfect curl. If the surf had been any good this morning, the place would have been a lot more populated than it was.

He wondered if Jasmine cared about being spied on in her underwear. Probably not. Inhibition had never been Jasmine's thing.

Aaron blew out a breath. Christ, what a woman.

She didn't emerge from the water despite the cold. She stood there among the breakers, arms wrapped tight around herself. Even from this distance, Aaron could tell how hard she was shivering. But she didn't give up — a woman who didn't like to admit her mistakes. Instead she waited for the next wave to come tumbling in, and then she dove under it as well, breaking the surface on the other side with a wild yowl, like an animal calling to the moon — or a mate.

A grin spread across Aaron's face. All right, Ms. Campbell, here I come. She was going to have to return to shore eventually, and when she did she was going to need a towel or she'd freeze her tits off. It would be ungentlemanly of him not to offer to warm them for her.

His grin spreading, Aaron grabbed the spare towel he kept on the backseat of the car, got out and headed for the beach.

*
Bad ideas had gotten Jasmine Campbell into hot water plenty of times over the years. This morning they'd gotten her into cold water instead.

Near-freezing water, if her body's protests were any indication. She hadn't realized it would be quite this chilly when she decided on a whim to cleanse herself of her past mistakes in the wide Pacific Ocean. Yet the shock to her system was just what she needed to rid herself of Zane's influence once and for all.

Talk about dumb ideas. Going back to the Gold Coast to see Zane Bellucci last night had been the dumbest. Why had she ever thought things would be different than they'd been four weeks ago when she'd left him? Because he'd called umpteen times since then, seducing her back to him, and like a dope she'd fallen for it. The phone calls had all been part of a game to Zane, and the second Jasmine had walked into his office at the club, she'd realized her error. Zane didn't love her; he simply wanted to win her like a trophy, to own her.

Another wave came rolling toward her, and for the third time Jasmine dove into it, submersing herself in the frigid depths and offering up a prayer. Mother Nature, please forgive me for I have sinned. I drink, I fornicate and I take perverse enjoyment from watching trashy reality television. Please grant me the sense to stay away from bad men who treat me like shit. Love, Jas.

She came up for air, her head clear. Either third time was the charm or she was sick of swimming in the cold water, but she felt free at last. Free of Zane and his manipulations. Free of the mess that had been the past year of her life — the past ten years if she was to be honest. She'd bumped around from place to place, from job to job, from man to man, without ever making headway. Being back in Leyton's Headland, the town where she'd done the most painful years of her growing up, seemed to highlight what a small distance she'd traveled.

She needed to get real. She ought to settle on a damn job for a start. She'd done everything from party planning to retail sales, she'd tried online marketing jobs and concert promotions. She'd bartended on and off throughout the years and ended up managing the bar at Zane's.

That she was good at — she'd even enjoyed it. But then like an idiot she'd slept with her boss, instigating a relationship that was bound to end as it had. Zane wanted everything his way; Jasmine cherished her freedom too much to submit to the demands he made. When she'd walked out of his office last night, he'd told her never to come back. She doubted a stellar reference would be forthcoming.

Nope, the best she could hope for right now was a hot shower and a huge cup of sweet black coffee.

Jasmine turned and body surfed a breaker to shore, then stood and began running toward the sand. Gooseflesh rose as the chilly morning air hit her icy-wet skin, and her teeth chattered as she headed back to the spot where she'd left her stuff.

A man stood there, his feet planted wide in the sand, his weight resting on one foot in a casual pose. A black wetsuit covered the lower half of his body. The upper half was left bare where he'd peeled the rubber suit down. Jasmine saw lightly tanned flesh, strong arms and rigid planes of muscle on his chest and abs. Yum. She also saw he was holding a black and white towel.

As she approached he spread it wide in both hands, a nonchalant invitation. She had planned to simply air dry a little before she put on her dress — not that you could really call that a plan — but a towel ... Well, if she'd thought out this whole adventure instead of driving straight here after she got back from the Gold Coast, she would have brought one.

She might make some dumb choices, but she wasn't completely stupid. Her mother, when she was alive, had always said never look a gift horse in the mouth, advice Jasmine had taken to heart. She stepped forward and let the Good Samaritan wrap the towel around her.

Welcome warmth enveloped her, providing shelter from the chilling effects of the breeze. Jasmine blew a breath past her trembling lips, her shivers abating somewhat. Whether that was caused purely by the presence of the towel or if it also had something to do with a hot male body inches away was anybody's guess. He stood a little higher on the sand, so his toned pectoral was at Jasmine's eye level. Or tongue level, for a woman with wicked intentions.

Which Jasmine was — but not this morning. She'd just cleansed herself of bad habits, hadn't she? Surely she could last more than three and a half minutes before she fell off the wagon.

Forcing herself to take a step back, Jasmine glanced up and met eyes of a penetrating azure, eyes she suddenly realized she recognized from somewhere. "Thank you."

"My pleasure."

His voice was deep, the slant of his lips amused. The way his gaze remained steadfastly fixed on her face reminded Jasmine that, before she'd been given the towel, all that covered her were two wispy lace garments. When she'd seen no one along the beach, she'd assumed she was alone. The thought that this man might have been here all along made her feel oddly hot.

No way could she be embarrassed, surely? A bra and knickers was hardly much different to a bikini. Not that she was the shy type anyway.

"A bit cold for a swim."

"Tell me about it." That voice ... Another zing of recognition sparked. To keep him talking, Jasmine asked, "You've been in for a surf?"

"If you can call it that," he chuckled. "It's pretty flat this morning."

It was the laugh that made the pieces click into place. She remembered that sound, and she had to cast her mind a good ten years into the past to place it. Jasmine took another step back, shielding her eyes from the rising sun. "AJ? Is that you?"

"Not many people call me that anymore. It's Aaron. Ty's friend — remember?"

Ty's friend. There was nothing lewd about the way he said it, but the prompt brought every lewd memory to the forefront of Jasmine's mind. Oh boy. He was that Aaron. Aaron Sanderson, whose parents had owned the big house on Daydream Avenue. She'd been drunk and out of control there more than once in her late teens, and one night she'd been with Ty Butler — her boyfriend at the time — in one of the bedrooms. Aaron had walked in on them by accident and she'd ... Well, a normal girl would have screamed and told him to get out. But nothing about her life had felt normal back then, and her reaction had been far different.

Jasmine processed his identity and all it reminded her of in a few beats of silence. Her body warmed again as feathery images flashed through her mind. She smiled to cover an unexpected discomfiture. "Well, AJ." She deliberately used the initials he'd said nobody did. "Long time no see."

"Sure has been." He tilted his chin toward the ocean. "You want to tell me why you decided to go for a dip when you were so ill-prepared?"

"I like to surprise myself now and then." She was hardly going to reveal all about Zane, about cleansing her sins and praying to whomever was listening.

"Fair enough." He grinned, and a dimple appeared in his cheek. Another flash of memory came back. Aaron had been the class clown at school, always the first to pull a practical joke. He'd been lanky and obnoxious. Jasmine had always thought he was sort of a dork, in an amusing, harmless sort of way.

Of their own volition, her eyes tracked over his bare chest and arms. He might still be an obnoxious dork, but he certainly wasn't lanky anymore. His frame was packed with hard muscle after hard muscle wrapped in smooth, lightly tanned skin.

Harmless wasn't the first word that came to mind either. He had an edgy sex appeal that her hormones couldn't help but take notice of.

"Hey." He reached out and tilted her chin so her gaze rose to his face. There was that big grin again, that dimple. "My eyes are up here."

Jasmine merely shrugged at being caught ogling him. "Surely one little peek is fair. You did see me in my underwear."

"And what a welcome surprise it was." He gestured to the towel, his expression a picture of innocence. "You finished with that?"

Cheeky bastard. "Not quite. I'm still cold."

"You can warm yourself in my car if you want. I have a heater."

"Are you trying to lure a poor innocent half-naked girl into your car, AJ?"

"No poor innocent girl," he drawled. "Just you."

Jasmine chose to ignore that comeback. She didn't really have cause to argue it. She gestured toward the other end of the beach. "My car's up at Sandy Point."

He raised his eyebrows as he checked the distance. "You walked a long way."

"The fresh air was nice. It cleared my head."

"Hmm, let me guess. Man trouble?"

Jasmine quirked a brow. "Is there any other kind of trouble?"

"Nothing that would make you swim without a wetsuit this time of year. I hope he was worth it."

Jasmine thought back to the last year, of everything Zane had taught her — the most important thing being where her boundaries were. She'd never known before, and perhaps all the years of her moving from one thing to another had been her way of searching for them.

At least now she knew what she didn't want. That was progress.

"All experiences are worth it in the end." Softly, she laughed. "At least that's what we tell ourselves to make the bad ones more palatable."

Aaron tilted his head as he studied her. "I don't like to think of you having too many bad experiences, Jas. You deserve better than that."

His words, the unexpected sincerity in them, made Jasmine's breath catch. She didn't think anyone had looked at her quite like Aaron Sanderson was right now, like he thought she was something special — like he thought she was something. Not just an attractive package on the outside, and not just someone he wanted to get into bed.

You're being ridiculous, Jasmine. He came down here specifically so he could check you out in your underwear. No way did he care about her on a deeper level. They'd never known each other that well — drunken sexual adventures in the dark aside. He certainly didn't know anything about her or what she deserved.

"Well, it's been fun running into you, but I should go."

Jasmine whipped off the towel and tossed it toward him. He caught a face full of it. While he was grappling with the towel, Jasmine bent over and retrieved her dress from the sand.

She could feel Aaron watching her as she shook off the grains and slipped the garment over her head. She shimmied into the dress. Immediately two dark patches appeared where her wet bra pressed against the fine silk.

She looked up to find Aaron staring, openmouthed, at those two stains. See? He's a man, just like any other. That odd moment when he'd appeared to care about her forgotten, Jasmine reached out and touched two fingers to his chin, smiling now that she was on more familiar footing. "My eyes are up here, you know."

He met her gaze and smirked. "Come on. You did that so I'd look."

She widened her eyes in an imitation of innocence. "Bra and panties is really no different than a swimsuit."

"Oh, it's different."

Jasmine smiled, letting her gaze trail over him one last time, until it landed on the telltale bulge molding the front of his wetsuit. She shook her head, clucking her tongue. "AJ, you really should cover up. This is a public beach."

(Continues…)



Excerpted from "Irrepressible Jasmine"
by .
Copyright © 2014 Sami Lee.
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.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Imperfect Penelope 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Tam More than 1 year ago
Another great read in the Wild Crush series. This edition is Penelope (Penny or Pen, please) story. Younger sister of Emily from Book #4 and Hope (who looks to be getting her book next - yes!). Plus we'll see a bit of Summer & Jasmine from books 1 & 2. Penny gets her HEA, eventually with Greg, stuffy but hot lawyer who's in Leyton's Headlands "hiding" out.