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Read an Excerpt
Romancing the Bachelor
A Hamilton Family Series
By Diane Alberts, Candace Havens
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2017 Diane Alberts
All rights reserved.
Eric Hamilton leaned back in his chair, scanning the courtroom for any sign of his opposing counsel. Brian Williams was ten minutes late. Sighing, he glanced around the room, taking in details he'd never really had time to notice before. Wood floors. Wood walls. Wood pews. Wood banisters. Wood stairs. Wood judge bench.
Clearly, they had a theme.
The only splash of color was the coffee mug sitting next to the stenotype, the machine the court reporter would use to record all the proceedings from today.
He stared at the doors to the courtroom, frowning. Had they always had lions carved into them? And had the ceilings always been so delicately designed?
Oh, who the hell gave a damn, anyway?
He lifted his arm and checked his Rolex.
Eleven minutes late now.
Fucking Brian Williams.
After they finished here, Eric would be lucky if he had five minutes for a hurried lunch before his meeting with the partners at George, Wallace & Markson. After that, he had a consultation with a potential client, followed by dinner with his family.
His sister's boyfriend, Brett, would be there, too.
Brett used to just be his brother's best friend, but then Anna had gone and fallen in love with him, and Brett had fallen for her, too. Eric and his brothers had kicked his ass when he first started dating Anna — on principle; everyone knew little sisters were off-limits — but now he was as integral a part of the Hamilton family as Eric was.
Brett had set up tonight's dinner a few nights ago, and Eric had a feeling he knew what it was going to be about. Brett was going to ask Eric's father for permission to ask Anna to marry him. He was old-fashioned like that. Eric wasn't sure how he felt about another Hamilton child biting the dust, so to speak, and getting married, but he knew one thing.
He wouldn't be joining them in matrimonial "bliss" anytime soon.
There was way too much shit left undone in his life already, so he wasn't about to complicate it even further by being a dumb ass and falling in love. Throwing a woman into his life right now would be nothing short of stupidity. Plus, to be honest, he didn't really believe in love.
Not the romantic kind, anyway.
He loved his sister. Loved his brothers Cole, Chris, and Wyatt. Hell, he even loved Brett. His parents held a special part in his heart, too, no matter how cold it might be.
But to open it up to a woman when most marriages ended in failure and a loss of half your funds? Yeah, no thank you. He'd stick to dogs. Speaking of which ...
He made a mental note to stop at the shelter again tomorrow. He'd been going for almost a month now, once a week, but he hadn't found his perfect match. Hell, it took him twenty minutes to decide what to have for dinner, so picking something he planned on having for years?
Yeah, it had to be perfect.
He wanted a dog who had been through a lot of shit and just needed a safe place to live. A dog who needed to be saved. All his life, things had come easily for him, and it wasn't something he took for granted. He swore he would pay back the universe in some way for all the blessings he'd been given, and this seemed like a good way to start. He would find a dog that was a fighter, one who needed to be rescued in every sense of the word, and he'd be the guy who did it. The guy who didn't take the easy way out.
With his income, he could certainly afford to buy any medications an older, sicker dog would need. And he wanted to save a life, damn it. He wanted to give that dog a fighting chance.
He wanted to give back to the universe in any way possible.
"What are we waiting for?" his client, the CEO of a local chain of restaurants, whispered from his left. "Is something wrong?"
"No, sir. This should be an easy case. You want to buy land that the government wants to get rid of. It's a closed deal already. It's just that the other representative isn't here yet."
Mr. Walter frowned at the empty table and chairs on the other side of the court aisle. He wore a navy suit with a white shirt, a blue tie, and his gray hair was impeccably combed to the side in an attempt to cover his growing bald spot. The man was as rich as Croesus.
Hell, maybe even richer.
"That's not very professional," he said.
"No, it's ..." The door opened, and he glanced up in relief. If that was Brian, then he could get this damn court session over with. But instead of the brown-haired Brian, it was a woman with light mahogany hair that flowed down her back in soft, touchable curls. A woman he'd never seen before, but would never forget now that he had. "... not."
Mr. Walter gave a hmph.
Eric took that to mean the conversation was over, which was good because, to be honest, he was too busy staring at the woman walking down the court aisle to come up with anything even remotely witty. There was something about her that drew his eye. She was short, maybe five-foot-one or so, and she wore a perfectly respectable black pencil skirt with a white shirt tucked in, but damn if she didn't make it look like she wore a tight cocktail dress instead. Her red heels were short but sexy, and she had a dimple in her chin. He couldn't look away from that damn dimple.
Slowly, he lifted his gaze and saw the brownest eyes he'd ever seen. When she noticed him staring, her cheeks flushed a pretty pink, and she tripped over her feet a little bit.
For some reason, that only made him want her more.
He was intrigued by her.
Nothing about her was his type — he preferred leggy, sophisticated blondes — and yet he knew without a doubt that he had to have this woman.
And when he wanted something?
He damn well got it.
She looked away, her cheeks even pinker, and brushed by him with her head lowered and her focus on the floor, leaving behind a tantalizing whiff of perfume and flowers. As she settled in behind the gate where the stenotype was, he still couldn't look away.
She was the court reporter? Since when?
Brian — who had apparently come in behind the mystery woman — settled into his chair, shot Eric an apologetic look, and cleared his throat. "Sorry I'm late. I got stuck in traffic."
He was always stuck in traffic.
Atlanta wasn't that busy.
The pretty brunette glanced his way again and quickly looked away when she saw him still studying her. What was her deal? Was she single? Had she just moved here? If so, he would be more than willing to show her around the city. And in doing so, maybe he'd figure out why she looked so damn familiar, and why it felt like he knew her already.
He'd never felt such an instant connection to someone before.
It was fucking unnerving.
"Eric?" Brian hissed.
Eric jerked himself out of his thoughts and reluctantly turned his attention away from the woman. Brian sat across the aisle, staring at him with a furrowed brow. "What?" "The judge asked you a question."
Get yourself together, man.
"Yes, your honor. I'm ready," he said, straightening his spine.
Judge Michaelson nodded once. "Excellent. Counsel?" he said, nodding at Brian. "You have the floor first."
Eric leaned forward, listening to Brian and carefully keeping his attention off the court reporter. He'd been so busy staring at her that he'd lost track of what he was really here to do — win this case.
He still couldn't figure out what it was that pulled him to her, but there was no denying the attraction was there, and he was going to let it tug him in for a time, until he could get her out of his system. Then he'd walk away.
It's what he did.
He would, of course, make that perfectly clear ahead of time. He wasn't in the habit of breaking hearts or crushing dreams. He always made sure women knew well in advance what they were getting with him. No surprises. No empty promises. No pain. Just pleasure.
Lots of pleasure.
"— and that's why we also think the purchase of the land in question would be a good move for the stability and the prosperity of Fifth Street."
Judge Michaelson nodded and looked at Eric. "Counsel? Your argument?"
Eric stood and straightened his jacket, shooting his client a reassuring grin. Things were going exactly as planned. At this rate, he'd have this in the bag within five minutes. "Your Honor, I'd like to take this time to point out that Mr. Walter has a proven track record of bringing economic boosts to downtrodden areas with his chain of restaurants. He is a man of many talents, and when he decides to build somewhere, he never lets down the community. The last restaurant he built downtown, one of his famous Southern Comfort restaurants, brought in over a million people in its first year alone. Those numbers show every promise of continuing to climb this year."
As he spoke, he paced back and forth, gesturing toward his client, who sat still with a smile on his face, looking every inch the prosperous businessman he was. The judge nodded in approval here and there, and Brian studied his nails. By the time he was finished, he was out of breath and ready to take on the whole goddamned world.
He got his approval within seconds.
It was easy. Too easy.
Grinning, he spoke with his client, shook his hand, told him the invoice for his services would be on his desk by the end of the day, and collected his things. Then, and only then, he let himself think of her again. Hopefully she would prove to be more of a challenge than this case — he loved the chase more than the actual catching itself.
Shrugging his briefcase on his shoulder, he turned to where she'd been sitting ... And she was gone.
Son of a bitch.
He gripped his bag then shrugged the loss off. He knew where she worked and what she looked like. It was only a matter of time until they were in the same courtroom again.
And when they were?
He wouldn't miss his chance a second time.CHAPTER 2
Shelby Jefferson ran down the street, inwardly shouting curses while outwardly doing her best to keep her mouth shut so she didn't drown in the pouring rain. Of course she'd picked today of all days to wear a white blouse without a rain jacket, since it had been sunny and dry this morning, so by the time she skidded onto the steps of her building, she was basically wearing a see-through curtain that highlighted pretty much everything ... and hid nothing at all.
Great. Just great.
Plucking at her shirt, she struggled with the heavy, slippery door, pulling it with all her might. It finally budged, and she slid inside, letting out a sigh of relief that turned into a shiver when the air-conditioning swept over her wet skin. Rubbing her damp arms, she huddled into herself and carefully made her way to the elevator doors. The man inside saw her coming, gave her a once-over, locked eyes with her, and hit the close door button.
God, what was it with people in this city?
She'd been in Atlanta for two years now, and the more time she spent there, the more she hated it. She longed for the quaint quiet of a small town and was doing everything in her power to get into one. The city just wasn't for her. Neither were men. Or romance.
She pushed the up button on the elevator. She'd moved to Atlanta for a man. That man had then cheated on her, broken her, and left her virtually homeless. It had taken every ounce of her strength not to give up then, when she'd had nothing and no one to lean on, but she had fought her way out from the bottom of the well where he'd tossed her, and now she was ready for the next step.
She wasn't giving up or letting the city win.
She'd conquered it, and was ready to leave now.
The people in this city were different from her. The women were sophisticated. The prices were high. The stress was higher. And the men were ...
Just thinking about men reminded her of Eric Hamilton, the lawyer who had decided to stare at her today for no apparent reason. The man had never taken notice of her before, but suddenly he couldn't take his eyes off her?
It made no sense. And, quite frankly, it scared her.
Men like him ate women like her alive.
Still, she loved watching him in the courtroom. He was always so passionately determined to win. So assured. So confident. So frigging hot. When he argued, his arms moved to emphasize his words, and his voice rose in excitement as he sensed him impending victory. There was nothing hotter than a man on a mission. And Eric Hamilton was always on a mission.
He thrived on the fight.
More importantly, on winning.
Which terrified her. Guys like Eric Hamilton were fun to look at and all, but that was it. He was like a big fire inside a brick fireplace. It was cool to watch the flames lick at the logs and devour them whole, but if you got too close, you were bound to get burned. Normally, it was easy to keep her distance, because he literally had no idea she even existed. Until today ...
Why had he seen her?
The elevator doors opened, and she moved inside with a grateful sigh. As she pushed the button for her floor, another tenant hurried toward the elevator. She pushed the door open button in so the new arrival wouldn't have to wait like she did. But when she saw who she'd held the door for ... she kind of wished she hadn't.
Because it was him.
"Thank you," he said distractedly, turning his back on her like usual.
He punched in the floor number and rolled his neck in a circle. He'd somehow managed to remain dry, even though the sky was open outside. Knowing him, he had his driver drop him off at the door, rather than having to run in heels from the bus stop like she did. Guys like him always had drivers. And fancy suits that cost more than her rent. And cars. He poked at his iPhone screen, frowning. So, things were back to normal, then. He was ignoring her existen — Slowly, he turned, with those piercing, grayish-blue eyes that never ceased to haunt her dreams. And those eyes ... God, those eyes. Crap. Things weren't normal.
He was looking at her.
She'd never seen a man with such beautiful frigging eyes before. They were a deep, royal blue, but they had flecks of dark gray in them as well. Gray. Who even had gray eyes?
Eric Hamilton. That's who.
As if that weren't enough, his brown hair was long on the top, swept to the side, and the rest was shaved close to his scalp. It looked soft to the touch and had a hint of curl at the edges. She always found herself wondering if it was as soft as it looked. He had a clean-shaven jaw, a chiseled chin, wide, kissable lips, and looked like he belonged on a magazine cover instead of in the courtroom. It was so unfair.
Why was he still looking at her?
"It's you," he said, his tone low, and his brow furrowed with confusion. He stared at her like she'd appeared from thin air and yelled boo, or something equally ridiculous. "From the courtroom today. The court reporter."
She let out a nervous laugh because he was still staring at her like she was a ghost. "Uhh ... yeah? How are you?"
"Good." He recovered quickly, offering a playful smile, and held his hand out. "I'm Eric Hamilton."
"I know." She offered him a tight smile. "I know your name. It's kind of my job. I type it every day. And, you know, we live in the same building and all."
"You live here?" he asked incredulously.
"No, I just ride elevators in the city for fun in my spare time."
With that, she turned away from him, staring up at the numbers as they climbed to the sixth floor, hoping he got the hint that she'd dismissed him from this conversation. He was six months too late trying to befriend her, thank you very much.
He apparently didn't get the hint.
"Are you new to the building, then?" he asked.
"No. I've been here for six months." She forced her smile to remain in place even though he just confirmed what she already knew — he had no frigging clue who she was. "We ride up in this elevator together several times a week, actually."
He said nothing, just frowned. He looked even hotter like that.
All pensive and stuff.
The elevator door chimed open, and she walked past him, being careful not to brush against his expensive suit with her wet sleeve. She couldn't afford to replace it if she ruined it. "If you'll excuse me?" "I'm sorry. I think we started off on the wrong foot, Ms. ...?" he said, following her out into the hallway.
Of course he didn't know her name. Why would he?
"There's nothing to be sorry about, Mr. Hamilton." She dug in her purse for her keys, deliberately not giving him her name. "Just because we live in the same building, and work in the same place, doesn't mean we need to be friends. In fact, I don't want to be your friend. So ... yeah."
Excerpted from Romancing the Bachelor by Diane Alberts, Candace Havens. Copyright © 2017 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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