Three months ago, graphic designer Vanessa Hewitt slept with the ridiculously hot guy she met after nearly falling to her death while stargazing on a bridge. The adrenaline-fueled night of we'll-never-see-each-other-again sex fulfilled every fantasy, but with her best friend's wedding on the horizon, Vanessa can't stop thinking about what would happen if her sexy stranger passed through town again.
Haunted by his time in Afghanistan, soldier John Campbell returns to his sister's town just long enough to help plan an engagement party for her. When he realizes her best friend is the sweet one-night stand he's been fantasizing about for months, he'll do anything to have her again...though getting trapped together in a storeroom wasn't quite what he had in mind.
Vanessa is in hell. Or is it heaven? Because with every touch, their forbidden connection grows, until kissing Mr. Wrong starts feeling more like kissing Mr. Right...
Each book in the Wrong Man series is a standalone, full-length story that can be enjoyed out of order.
Book #1 Kissing Mr. Wrong
Book #2 Tempting Mr. Wrong
About the Author
Kerri Carpenter began writing in her grandmother's kitchen at the age of seven in a small town outside of Pittsburgh, PA. A life-long fan of reading, she got lost in the worlds of The Baby-sitters Club and Sweet Valley High. She also assumed that everyone had characters and plots forming in their heads at all times. Once she turned to romance novels, she couldn't get enough of books with happy endings, so she started writing her own. Now, Kerri writes contemporary romances, usually set in small towns. She enjoys reading, cooking, watching movies, taking Zumba classes, rooting for Pittsburgh sports teams, and anything sparkly. Kerri lives in Northern Virginia with her adorable (and mischievous) poodle mix, Harry.
Kerri can be found online at her website (www.kerricarpenter.com), on Facebook, and Twitter. Or, sign up for her newsletter.
Read an Excerpt
Kissing Mr. Wrong
A Wrong Man Story
By Kerri Carpenter, Heather Howland
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2015 Kerri Carpenter
All rights reserved.
Vanessa knew it happened to other people, but she still couldn't believe it had happened to her. Even after the requisite talk with human resources, then packing up her desk and turning in her work ID, her brain refused to accept it.
But she had definitely been laid off today.
She dropped off her stuff at her apartment, and then went directly to her home away from home, also known as Mike's, the bar downstairs.
Sure, she'd been given her usual cheerful greeting, and the pity glass of Pinot Noir had been delicious. But nothing was making her feel better at the moment. Not even the hot eye candy sitting at the end of the bar, who kept throwing glances in her direction. With his broad shoulders, muscular arms, and ready smile, he was just her type. Only tonight was not the ideal time to flirt. All she could do at the moment was mope.
"Don't worry about it, V," Mike said, leaning over the bar. "You can work here until you find something new."
Mike's offer was kind, and she had every intention of taking him up on it. Still, she'd thought her waitressing and bartending days were over. Unfortunately, one of the downsides of living in a small Virginia town two hours outside Washington, DC, was that graphic design jobs weren't falling off trees.
Moving there is a huge mistake, her mother's disapproving voice echoed in her head. You'll come to regret it. Mark my words.
Pushing all maternal criticism from her brain, she offered a small smile. "Thanks, Mike, I really appreciate it." Stealing a quick glance around the large mahogany bar and even larger dining area, she decided it wasn't the worst place to work. She knew the menu inside and out, as well as most of the regulars. "When do you need me to start?"
"Why don't you take a couple days off and start next week?" His eyes held sympathy as he pushed a glass of water across the bar.
"Thanks," she mumbled.
A quick glance at her phone showed her that her best friend hadn't called her back yet. Come on, Jess, I need you. Trying not to take it personally, she sighed. After all, she knew exactly where Jess was. Where she always was lately.
"What's Jess up to tonight?" Mike asked, as if reading her mind.
She shrugged. "Probably with Paul."
"That got serious fast."
Sure had. If Vanessa hadn't been in such a sour mood, she would admit how happy she was for her friend. Jess had been the first person to befriend her when she moved to Crescent Falls two years ago for, ironically, her new job. Now, her old job. She blew her overgrown bangs out of her face. She really needed to do something about them soon.
"So what do ya say, V? Want another drink?"
As a matter of fact, she did. But the tears that kept pushing at the backs of her eyes, oh, those waterworks would start full-force if she opted for a second glass of wine. As it was, the Pinot Noir she favored tasted like ashes in her mouth. Fitting, she supposed, since her dream job had gone up in flames today. She pushed the half-full glass aside and opted for the water.
She couldn't help but notice that while the hot guy at the end of the bar kept his hand wrapped around his own half-consumed beer, he seemed intent on her answer as well.
"Nah. This is it for me. I should be heading out soon anyway."
"Okay." Mike shot her a relieved look. Yeah, she knew he didn't do well with weepy women. "I really am sorry. You okay getting home?"
Unable to suppress it, she rolled her eyes. "I think I can make it all the way upstairs just fine."
Mike grinned. "You know I have to ask."
"I know, I know. Thanks, Mike. I mean, boss." When she tried to pay her tab, Mike waived her off. She was too tired to put up a fuss.
On her way out of the bar, she passed the door that led to the landing of the apartments above and paused. She could go upstairs and pick up her paintbrush. Art had always been an outlet for her and maybe she could take some of this sadness out on the canvas.
No. Art used to be her outlet. Lately, it had only added to her frustration.
Maybe she could go upstairs and put on a weepy movie. She wasn't drunk, but she was definitely emotional.
The thought of going to her cramped apartment for a private pity party ... Nope. No way. She needed air. Lots of it.
Outside, the recently fallen leaves crunched beneath her black boots. She inhaled, taking in the distinctly autumnal smell that always reminded her of fires crackling away in hearths, Friday night high school football games, and the remnants of Halloween candy.
The fact that a tiny town in the middle of nowhere had become home still surprised her. Thanks to Jess, her old job, Mike's Bar, and the other friendly residents, she'd come to love it. Even without a nightlife, or many job possibilities that didn't involve manual labor or horses, she still adored living there.
Vanessa didn't have to think about where she wanted to go tonight. She crossed the street and headed for one of her favorite spots.
The old stone bridge across from the bar dated back to God-knew-when. Probably Revolutionary times, she thought, as she leaned over the edge and listened to the bubbling water below. The sound of the water running over the many rocks she knew were down there calmed her. Brought her peace.
She hopped up and swung one leg over the side, intending to sit a while before returning to her apartment.
Freezing at the loud, insistent voice, she chanced a glance over her shoulder. It was the hot guy from the bar. Only he looked less hot, more worried, as he quickly approached her with both hands held out in front of him.
"Don't what?" she asked, confused.
"Trust me, it's not worth it. I know you had a shitty day. Believe me, I've had my fair share. But you'll find a new job."
Cocking her head, she took in his concerned expression. Not to mention the incredibly muscular body, held so tightly in anticipation that his dark green polo shirt strained against it. As he slowly neared, she realized he was even taller than he'd appeared while seated in the bar. If she was five-eight, he was probably an inch or two over six feet, but his rippling muscles, square jaw, and broad shoulders made him seem much larger.
Close now, he stretched a hand toward her. "Please, give me your hand."
He had light eyes, either green or blue—she couldn't tell in the dark. But she could detect the fear ... and that's when it hit her.
"Ohmigod!" she cried. "You think I came out here to jump?"
He inched forward another foot and was close enough now that she could determine his eyes were, in fact, a light blue. His hair was brownish-blond, and cut incredibly short. It seemed soft, and she wondered what it would feel like to rub her hand over it.
"Didn't you?" he asked, his jaw ticking.
"Of course not."
Lowering his hand, he frowned. "I'm sorry. I just assumed."
Yeah, but ... "What are you doing out here?"
"In all honesty, I followed you." He nodded as if that were a completely normal and totally non-stalkerish thing to say. "I overheard you saying you lost your job and saw that you'd had a glass of wine. It seemed like you and the bartender were tight, so I was confused when he let you leave upset."
Wow, someone was observant. Observant and accurate. "Mike's a great guy. But he wasn't worried because I literally live in one of the apartments above the bar." She pointed back toward the building that held Mike's Bar—and her apartment—to prove it.
Under the glow from the streetlamp, she could tell his cheeks were turning a soft shade of red and decided to be nice. Besides, it had been a very long time since someone had worried about her well-being. It felt nice to know someone cared.
That must be why butterflies were dancing around her stomach as she continued to stare at his handsome face. And, okay, she may have taken another glance at his well-defined chest. She was only human.
"Thanks for ... being a gentleman," she decided.
He grinned, fast and brief, and her heart stopped. Wow, just wow.
He closed the final distance between them and stuck his hand out again. "My name's John. I heard the bartender call you V?"
"It's just a nickname. My name is Vanessa." She slipped her hand into his, and his large, warm fingers curled around hers. The sensation had her breath catching in her chest as her eyes shot up to meet his. His face mirrored her startled expression.
Realizing she was still straddling the wall, Vanessa tried to swing her leg back over to the bridge side. But she was so enraptured by John's rugged face, his mesmerizing touch, and his amazing body that she slipped. There was only enough time for a scream to escape her lips before she went over the side of the bridge.
* * *
Every bit of training John had gleaned from his six years in the Army, not to mention the four years of ROTC in college, kicked in full force.
As soon as Vanessa had gone over the bridge, his arm had shot out faster than rounds from the M4 he carried on a daily basis in Afghanistan. His next step had been to secure his grip on her arm, all while maintaining eye contact.
Even with his heart pounding in his ears, he steadied his breathing and spoke in a clear, calm voice. "It's okay. I've got you."
With her face drained of all color, the dark, intoxicating eyes he'd noticed earlier looked even larger. He could see her chest rising and falling as she sucked scared breaths into her lungs. But she surprised him when she nodded, squeezed his hand, and said, "Okay."
Using all of the strength he possessed, he tightened his grip. Pretty soon, he had both hands wrapped around hers, and began pulling her up and over. When her knees cleared the wall, she let out a cry. John held his breath and steadied himself for the full brunt of her weight. As soon as her feet met solid ground, she fell into him.
"Are you o—"
He couldn't get the sentence out before she flung her arms around his neck, holding on for dear life. While it may have started as a means to steady her, when he held her tightly against him, running his hands up and down the length of her back, he knew he wasn't just calming her. He was reassuring himself that she was alive and well. She hadn't fallen off the bridge.
She was safe.
John recognized the adrenaline pumping through his body. He'd experienced the sensation more times than he could count during both tours overseas.
Realization hit hard, just as it had that day in Afghanistan when everything went to shit. This had been his fault. He'd seen her on the bridge and his mind went right into crisis mode. She probably would have been just fine if he hadn't butted in. His assumption had ultimately caused her to slip and almost go over.
He'd tried to play hero. Again. And in the process, he almost came out as the villain.
Pushing thoughts of Afghanistan, and that wretched night with his unit, aside, he turned his thoughts back to the woman cowering in his arms.
He could feel every curve of her body. Where was her damn coat anyway? She should definitely have a coat on, with how cold the night had become.
And then there was the scent of her dark hair—something flowery, like roses. It tickled his nose.
"You're okay. Everything's okay," he whispered into that black hair. His voice sounded gruff, and he wasn't sure if it was from the exertion of pulling another human being over a centuries-old stone bridge, or from the way her body was forcing his to wake up.
"I can't believe that just happened," she said. "I'm sorry."
He took in her dark brown eyes, large with fear. "What are you sorry for?"
"I have no idea." She half-laughed, half-choked. Then her lips turned up slightly at the corner. "I needed to say something."
"This was entirely my fault," he said. "There's nothing for you to be sorry for."
"It was an accident. I didn't think about how dangling my legs over a bridge might seem to someone else. In the end, you saved me. You're a hero."
"No," he said, loudly and definitively. She winced and he quickly reined in the emotions the word hero brought up. "I mean, I'm just glad you're okay."
God, she was beautiful. Dark lashes surrounded her gorgeous eyes. Eyes the color of onyx in a face made of pure alabaster. Not a single imperfection marred that skin. Her thick hair was long, and framed her face in layers of luscious waves.
"What?" she said on a breathy sigh.
Her cheeks instantly reddened, but she didn't break eye contact. He respected that.
"You're not exactly hard on the eyes either." To prove it, she ran a finger along his jawline. Her light touch sent a delicious tingle down his spine. His reaction was to pull her even closer, but she kept her head high and he could feel her sweet breath against his neck.
His heart sped up again. She was tall—one of his favorite traits in a woman—and she fit just right with his body. He couldn't seem to look anywhere but at her lips. Lips that were a soft red. Lips that parted seductively as he continued to stare.
Lips that, before he knew it, called to him louder than anything he'd ever heard.
Ignoring every good manner he'd been taught growing up, and all of the training and patience he'd learned in the Army, he framed her face with his hands and kissed her.CHAPTER 2
Vanessa never did things like this.
In fact, she considered herself as boring as they came. She worked hard, paid her bills the second they came in, and always folded her laundry when it came out of the dryer. If there was a rule out there, she followed it.
But tonight, she was suppressing that Goody-Two-shoes and doing something her body was craving more than oxygen.
Maybe it was the adrenaline from almost dying. Maybe she could blame it on getting laid off. Hell, it could be the full moon. In any case, she didn't care. She wanted this guy and she wanted him now.
So she accepted John's lips against hers. In fact, she pulled him closer as she moved her mouth over his. She might not know very much about this guy, but so far he'd proven that he was brave and strong. Plus, the man could kiss.
She wanted to purr, but settled for a soft sigh and ran her hands down his back until they rested over his ass. He responded by nipping her bottom lip and sucking it into his mouth.
She shivered. The kiss was amazing. It managed to both soothe her frayed nerves and elicit new, tingling emotions.
When he moved his mouth to her neck, she thought her legs would turn to Jell-O, and felt herself slipping.
He let out a small chuckle. "Hey, where are you going?" Then he tightened his arms around her and continued the assault against her neck, her collarbone, then back up to her jawline.
Until he let out a harsh exhale, she hadn't realized that she'd moved her hands to his front, and they were currently dancing along his very firm abs, right above the waistband of his pants. Her fingers slipped under his shirt to feel the hard skin and he groaned, grabbing her hair and pulling her to him even tighter.
There was an insistent voice somewhere in the deep recesses of her mind, calling out to her. This is crazy-sauce. You just met him. You never do things like this. But funny how the more he kissed her, the fainter that voice sounded. This might not be her typical Friday night activity, but right now she was fine with it.
"We have to go somewhere." His voice rasped out and his breathing was uneven. It had to match her own. Then his eyes widened. "Sorry. I should ask you first. Do you want to go somewhere?" He gave her a quick peck on the lips. "Please, God, tell me you want to go somewhere."
She would have laughed but she was trying to keep it together. His eyes were dark with lust and they were watching her like she was the only woman on the planet.
No one had ever looked at her like this.
He pressed against her and she felt his erection through the snug khakis he was wearing.
No one had ever wanted her like this, either.
"Yes," she managed. "My place. Now."
He smiled, but only for a second. Then he was digging in his heels and the lust began to fade from his eyes.
Excerpted from Kissing Mr. Wrong by Kerri Carpenter, Heather Howland. Copyright © 2015 Kerri Carpenter. 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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