When Jason Kershaw spots former schoolmate Emma Ryan waitressing at the local pizza place, he decides it’s time to catch up. Trouble is, the pretty, sharp-witted brunette wants nothing to do with him. But he’s not going to let that stop him from trying to chisel through her armor.
Emma lusted after bad boy Jason back in high school, but at a hundred pounds overweight, she was pretty much invisible to popular guys like him. Hard work and determination helped her shed the extra weight—as well as the vulnerable teenager she used to be.
With a business to get off the ground and no desire to let another man toss her aside like yesterday’s trash, charmers like Jason are off her menu. Except the easygoing boy she remembers has become a stubborn, downright mouthwatering man. And Emma’s starving for a taste.
Each novella in the Man-Maid Series is a standalone story that can be enjoyed in any order.
Book 1: No Turning Back
Book 2: No Letting Go
About the Author
Anne Rainey creates steamy romance stories with just the right amount of heat. Her books frequent best seller and top pick review lists. Anne is an accomplished author of over thirty titles. Her books can be found in Target stores and other popular online retailers. Canada’s largest newspaper, The Toronto Star, recommends Anne’s books as an alternative read to Fifty Shades of Grey. Anne actively markets her work and sells an average of 133,000+ print and digital copies per year.
Anne grew up in a small town in central Ohio the only girl with three rowdy, older brothers. When she wasn’t playing tackle football with them she could be found tucked away in her mother’s book room getting lost in mysterious worlds created by authors such as Martha Grimes and Andrew M. Greeley. She’s had a variety of odd jobs including Chiropractic Assistant, Frame Stylist, Restaurant Hostess, and Nail Technician. Anne now lives with her fabulous husband, two gorgeous teenage daughters, two ornery dogs and three snooty cats.
Read an Excerpt
Present day ...
Outside Champagne's nightclub, the fog was coming in fast. As she waited in line to get into the club, the gray mist seemed to surround Emma. She shivered as fear crept in. She took comfort in the other people who shuffled along on the sidewalk around her. Life was always uncertain, ready to explode at any moment, but Emma didn't intend to let it blow up in her face. She had few real friends, and her curio shop, Her Heart's Desire, was finally up and running. Tonight she planned to celebrate her grand opening with her friend Brenda.
Suddenly, a huge brute of a man popped out of the alley in front of her, startling her. "Excuse me," she mumbled as she moved around him and clutched the mace hidden in her purse a little tighter. Okay, maybe she should've listened when Brenda had insisted on them riding together. But Champagne's was right down the street from where Emma lived and worked, so it only made sense to meet Brenda at the club. In hindsight, Emma realized that walking alone wasn't at all sensible.
When Emma reached the front of Champagne's, she opened the huge heavy doors and was almost knocked down by the overwhelming blast of music. She gave herself a minute to adjust to her new surroundings. When a few men looked her way and smiled, Emma's cheeks heated. She tugged at the hem of the emerald-green silk dress and worried it was too short. She'd fixed her long brown hair in loose curls that cascaded past her shoulders. When a few more heads turned her way, the introvert in her wished she were at home, wearing her baggy PJs. She mentally smacked herself. No, she wasn't going to chicken out. It had been a big day. She'd made her dream come true. She was now a business owner. That was reason for smiles, not frowns.
When her cell phone chirped, signaling a text message, Emma dragged it out and read the screen. It was Brenda, and she was bailing on her. Emma sighed. She should turn around now and go home. But she didn't, because celebrating her new business venture was important to her. Even if she was doing the celebrating alone. She sidled up to the bar and ordered a glass of white wine. As her eyes adjusted to the dimly lit room, Emma glanced around. That was when she spotted a familiar face. Jason Kershaw. She'd recognize his sexy smile and dreamy eyes anywhere. She let out a frustrated sigh. The one night Emma decided to step out of her comfort zone and hit a club, she managed to nearly run into her high school crush. What were the odds?
In high school, he'd been the bad boy with the dark hair and slick Mustang. She'd melted the moment he'd walked into history class and sat next to her. He'd grinned, and she'd let him cheat off her all the rest of that year. Had he ever asked her out? Nope. Flirted? Nope. She'd dredged up the nerve and asked him to homecoming once, but he'd turned her down flat. There was one obvious reason for that. The extra one hundred pounds she'd carried on her small five foot four frame. Instead, he'd dated the prom queen. Emma had been horribly jealous, but she'd been too afraid to do anything about it.
She was no longer that chubby, shy girl, though. She'd worked long and hard to lose those extra pounds and shed her backward nature. Still, walking up to Jason and asking him to, what, dance? Nope, she wasn't quite that sure of herself. A bathroom break, that was what she needed. Emma put her glass down and started across the room, keeping all her attention on creating a path to the restrooms at the back of the nightclub. She darted a quick glance toward Jason and noticed that he sat at a table with three other men and two women. She knew who they were because she'd waited on them at the restaurant she used to work at. But it was Jason who held all her attention tonight.
Electricity sizzled along her nerves as her feet took her closer to him. Determined to ignore the riot going on inside her stomach, Emma forged ahead. When she was just a few feet from his table, Emma lifted her head, and suddenly their gazes connected. Time seemed to stand still. Emma tried to speak, but no words came.
Without warning, someone shoved her. The room spun, and she tipped forward. A pair of strong arms came around her, catching her before she fell. Embarrassment filled her as she realized she'd not so gracefully landed on Jason's lap. Crap.
Jason didn't know what to think. One minute he was listening to a joke his brother, Jensen, was telling them, and the next, a woman was practically falling at his feet. He reached up just in time to catch her before she dropped to the floor. He wasn't even sure what made him turn around to begin with. Just an odd prickly sensation at the back of his neck. It was like a strange sense of déjà vu. Now he sat with her in his arms, but it was her soft words that had him holding her just a little tighter.
"Oh God, I'm so sorry," she mumbled.
"Don't be," he said as he looked into the face of the woman on his lap. His heart kicked up a beat. He knew her. Emma Ryan. They'd gone to the same high school. She'd also waitressed at Pete's Pizzeria, the restaurant he and his brother frequented. At least she used to be a waitress there. Until recently. He'd asked about her when he'd noticed her absence, and that was how he'd learned that she'd quit. He'd hated the hollow feeling that had settled in the pit of his stomach at the thought of never seeing her again.
Jason had missed her, which was downright odd, considering they were nothing more than passing acquaintances. Their one and only encounter had occurred when he'd flirted with her at the restaurant. At the time, Jason hadn't remembered Emma from high school. She'd just been a pretty waitress, one he'd wanted to get to know better. When she'd reminded him that they'd actually had a few classes together and that he'd never bothered to give her the time of day, he'd felt like a total dumbass. She'd even asked him to homecoming, and he'd turned her down. It still bothered him that he'd been so utterly blind.
He took advantage of Emma's position and examined her face. She was striking. Unlike any woman he'd met. Her hair, a rich shade of brown, caught the light and tumbled over his arm. Her huge brown eyes, set in a small oval face, widened with embarrassment. Her full lips parted as if she'd speak. Right now she stared up at him as if he had seven heads. She squirmed, and he realized he was holding her in place.
Jason released her and let her get to her feet. Damn, he'd kind of liked the feel of her on his lap. He smiled, but she only frowned before turning and hurrying away. Jason stood and rushed after her. He caught her arm and said over the loud music, "Is that all the thanks I get for saving you from what could have been a very nasty and embarrassing fall?"
She stopped and seemed to consider that for a moment, then turned toward him. He practically tumbled over himself when her gaze connected with his once more. He spit out the first thing that came to mind. "You have the most incredible eyes I've ever seen." That brought the frown back, and Jason wanted nothing more than to erase it for good. "That sounds a lot like a line," she said.
Jason gave that some thought before saying, "No, I mean it." He hesitated before adding, "Emma."
To his satisfaction, a fair amount of surprise registered in Emma's expression. "I didn't think you'd remember me."
He chuckled as he thought of their last encounter. "Oh, I definitely remember you." Can I buy you a drink?" Jason badly wanted her to say yes. He ached to get to know her. She intrigued him on a deeper level.
She shook her head. "I'm afraid the music in this place is giving me a headache." She rubbed at her temples and offered, "Uh, maybe some other time. When I'm feeling a little better."
She began walking again, and Jason stayed in step beside her. "Well, at least give me your number."
She frowned. "Why?"
He winked. "So I can ask you out."
She bit her lip and looked away. "Oh, I'm not sure that's such a good idea."
He was about to beg, but before he could form the words, the music picked up and people started to pile in around them. He'd taken his gaze off Emma for only a second, but that was all it took for her to vanish. Damn, he felt like he was trying to keep water from slipping through his fingers.
The woman was a mystery. One he intended to unravel.
Jason had had his fair share of women. He wasn't a man-whore, but he wasn't a monk either. There'd even been a few beauties who'd barely left him with his heart intact. But there was something about Emma Ryan that tugged at him. Some unfamiliar part of him he couldn't quite identify. He'd known her in high school, but she'd been standoffish and quiet. And, he admitted to himself, he'd been too intent on getting into trouble and screwing off. Besides, he'd known better than to play around with the nice girls. And Emma fit into that category perfectly.
She'd always had a vulnerability that called to the masculine side of him, as if taunting him to swoop down and snatch her up, which was at least half the reason he'd kept his hands off her — then.
The instant she'd walked into the nightclub, Jason had wanted to get up close. Her pretty brown hair that swung just above her ass in bouncy little ringlets made him ache to stroke it. And every inch of her curvy body was on display in the sexy green dress she'd worn. Jason had never been attracted to bone-thin women. He liked something to unveil. Something to make his time worthwhile. And Emma was surely worthwhile.
He tore his thoughts away from the elusive Emma and back to the conversation he'd been having with his brother, Jensen. "I don't see why you won't agree to hiring a little bit of office help."
Jason was growing increasingly bored with the discussion. For over an hour, they'd been sitting at the small round table at the nightclub while Jensen grumbled about their decision to hire an office manager. Their business, Man-Maid Cleaning Service, was a success. They had new clients coming daily. Frankly, Jason didn't see anything wrong with hiring some help now that they were doing so well. The business was growing fast, and they needed someone to take the load off. It would free them up to take on more clients if they weren't always stuck at the office. It was a good decision. Still, Jensen seemed reluctant to give up control over the books. Before they'd started the maid service, Jensen had been a financial analyst. Jason supposed that was why his brother balked at the idea of someone else handling the money end of things.
"I would if there was a good reason. You haven't given me one."
Jason shoved his fingers through his hair. "It's simple. If we're always busy adding up numbers and filling out invoices, then we can't take on more clients."
Jensen took a drink of his beer before setting it back on the table. "I do see your point. I'm just a control freak when it comes to the finances."
Jason slapped his brother on the shoulder. "Yeah, we all know that, man."
His brother sat back in the chair and crossed his arms over his chest. "We'll put an ad out first thing Monday morning."
Jason pushed his barely touched beer away before replying, "Sounds good."
"Now that we have that cleared up, let's talk about the woman who just landed in your lap."
Jason could feel his muscles tensing. He didn't want to talk about Emma Ryan. "What about her?"
"Isn't she the waitress you flirted with at Pete's Pizzeria?"
"Yep." Jason signaled the waiter for his check before adding, "We also went to high school together."
Jensen narrowed his gaze. "Something must have happened, because there was some serious tension between you two just now."
His brother would never let this go. Jason would have to fill him in. "It was during our junior year. She asked me to homecoming, and I turned her down."
He drummed his fingers on the table. "You were going out with Patrice then, right?"
Jason nodded. "Patrice Samms."
"I never did care for her." Jensen shook his head. "She was an airhead and flirted with every guy in school. I never understood what you saw in her."
Jason seriously didn't want to have this conversation, but Jensen could be like a dog with a bone. "My hormones sort of ran the show back then. I was an idiot, I know."
"And you want to remedy that, huh?"
"I think she'd rather I drop dead, but I can't seem to get her out of my head."
"You might be surprised." Jensen shrugged. "There could be some serious groveling on your part first, but I have a feeling she's worth it."
Jason thought of Jensen's girlfriend, Marquetta. They'd met recently when she'd saved him from getting hit by a car. Now they were living together, and he'd never seen his brother happier. "Was it like this with Marquetta? Feeling like you just have to see her again?"
"Pretty much. She knocked me on my ass, and I haven't stopped grinning since." Jensen smiled as if to prove his point. "So, what's your plan with Emma?"
The answer to that was easy. "First, I need to find out if she's single." The idea that Emma might be taken set Jason's teeth on edge.
His brother chuckled. "And if she's available?"
"Then I'll ask her out." He only hoped she'd say yes, because the idea of Emma turning him down sucked. For some reason, the thought of never seeing her again just didn't sit right with him. Ever since she'd quit working at the pizzeria, Jason had an itch to track her down. Now, fate had dropped her in his lap — literally — and he wasn't about to let the opportunity pass him by.
Jensen cocked his head to the side and said, "It just so happens I know where she lives and works."
The news practically knocked Jason out of his chair. "You do?"
"Yep. I overheard one of the waitresses at Pete's talking about Emma the other day. The girl was going on and on about Emma opening her own business. A little shop called Your Heart's Desire. It's right down the street from here, actually."
"What sort of business is it?"
"From what I've gathered, it's an odds-and-ends store. She's living in the little apartment above it." He held up his hand. "That's the extent of what I know, though."
Hell, Jensen knew more about Emma than he did. "I had no idea she was a business owner."
"I have a feeling there's a lot about Emma you don't know." Jensen pulled his cell phone out of his pocket and looked at the screen. "It's late, come on."
After paying for the beer that they'd barely touched, they stood and headed for the door. When they reached the cool night air outside the bar, Jason took the keys to his Harley out of his jean's front pocket, then turned toward his brother. "Say hi to Marquetta for me."
He nodded. "Drive safe."
"You too," Jason replied as he took his helmet off the handlebars and slipped it over his head. He swung his leg over the seat and started the bike. Before he even realized what he was doing, Jason found himself pulling up outside Emma's shop. He had no business skulking around in the dark. She could have a boyfriend. Hell, a husband. As a light went on in an upstairs window, Jason became transfixed. Emma appeared at the window, and she looked like she was alone. She had changed out of the dress he'd seen her wearing earlier at the bar. Now she wore an oversize, fluffy robe. He had to grit his teeth against the need to go to her. God, she'd been gorgeous in the clingy dress earlier. How could she be that same shy girl he'd cheated off of in history class?
When she looked in the direction of where he sat on his cycle, Jason wondered if she knew it was him. Was she as attuned to him as he was to her? Suddenly, she pulled the curtain closed and disappeared. Jason revved his Harley's engine and took off down the dark street. Now that he knew where she lived and worked, he could relax. Tomorrow he aimed to pay her little shop a visit. If he was lucky, he'd walk away with more than a few odds and ends.
Emma didn't take a deep breath until she was back inside her shop. Lordy, she wasn't easily shaken, but Jason Kershaw shook her. She needed time to think about the way he affected her. Ever since high school, the man had had the power to render her mute. The connection between her and Jason seemed altogether too strong for her peace of mind. Jason's rugged face sprang to her mind, and she shuddered. The way he'd stared down at her with such concern when she'd tumbled onto his lap ... He'd held her in his arms, cradling her almost protectively. Jason Kershaw was bad for her peace of mind, of that she was absolutely certain.
Excerpted from "No Letting Go"
Copyright © 2014 Anne Rainey.
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Its only 88pgs but its worth it! A must read!
Good story love jason...could have had more development
Dose not show what its about?