Scandalize Me (Fifth Avenue Series #2)

Scandalize Me (Fifth Avenue Series #2)

by Caitlin Crews

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I’m not going to stop. I’m going to drown in you, and then I’m going to do it again. And again. Until I’ve had my fill.

Zoe Brook has been sent to clean up a bad boy’s reputation. And that’s just fine—she knows all about hiding the sins of the past. But Hunter Grant, sports hero and renowned womaniser is so much…more than she ever expected.

Money, passion and power come as naturally to this man as the women who flock to his bed. But Zoe’s determined not to be another notch on his bedpost. So when Hunter turns his considerable focus and energy to seducing her, she draws on every sharp put-down in her arsenal. But with no sassy comebacks left, the final words on Zoe’s lips are…Yes. Oh, yes.

Collect all three novels in the Fifth Avenue Trilogy:
AVENGE ME by USA TODAY bestselling author Maisey Yates
SCANDALIZE ME by USA TODAY bestselling author Caitlin Crews
EXPOSE ME by USA TODAY bestselling author Kate Hewitt

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781460334775
Publisher: Harlequin
Publication date: 07/01/2014
Series: Fifth Avenue Series , #2
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 192
Sales rank: 96,070
File size: 263 KB

About the Author

Caitlin Crews discovered her first romance novel at the age of twelve and has since began her life-long love affair with romance novels, many of which she insists on keeping near her at all times. She currently lives in California, with her animator/comic book artist husband and their menagerie of ridiculous animals.

Read an Excerpt

Zoe Brook strode into the exclusive strip club, hidden away beneath a discreet sign on a side street in an otherwise upscale Manhattan neighborhood, like an avenging angel on the warpath at last.

It had taken almost seven years, but her revenge was within grasp.

At last.

She paid no attention to the dull-eyed bouncers who waved her through the doorway, much less the plastic smile of the hostess as she swept past the welcome desk. There were very few clients at this hour of the morning—10:17, last she'd checked—and that made it easy to find who she was looking for in the dimly lit, too-loud space, dotted here and there with the requisite poles and a handful of sleepy-looking dancers eking out halfhearted performances in the dark red gloom.

Not that her quarry was making any attempt to hide.

Hunter Talbot Grant III, one-time golden boy, dumb jock extraordinaire and current professional fuckup, sprawled on a plush booth in the corner of the otherwise sparsely populated club, neck deep in mostly naked women. Zoe's lips thinned as she took in the scene, which was as distasteful as she'd expected. The women giggled on each side of him, they shimmied in front of him, they writhed for his pleasure as if his table was its own stage and Zoe, dressed in her usual sleek sort of sheath dress and a tailored coat against the winter chill, was wearing more clothing than all of them put together.

"Good morning, Mr. Grant," she said crisply, eying the man himself in all his sordid glory. "You seem to have forgotten our nine-thirty meeting today."

It wasn't exactly a surprise that someone who currently ranked as the Most Hated Celebrity in America was a pig. In fact, Zoe was counting on it. Hunter Grant was the disgraced sports figure du jour, wealthy beyond measure and disreputable by choice, and strip clubs such as this one were his natural habitat. Pig was redundant.

"And you seem to be wearing entirely too many clothes."

His voice was a rough growl, deeply male and shot through with raw, velvet arrogance, which went with his very big, undeniably impressive body sprawled there in the booth, dripping with strippers. But he met her gaze as if they were alone and he was entirely sober, and there was suddenly a certain hum in the air, a kind of electric charge, that made her skin feel much too tight.

She ignored the odd sensation, keeping her gaze on him as if the shock of his intense physicality didn't seem to suck the air from all around him like a vacuum. Or as if she simply didn't notice it, because she shouldn't. Because she couldn't.

"It's a terrible habit of mine." She let her brows rise in challenge, because he was a man who'd played games for a living, and men like that lived for challenges of all kinds. They couldn't help it. And that meant she could use it against him. "I can't seem to break it."

"I recommend quitting cold turkey," he said with a dark gleam in his famously sky blue eyes, about which whole songs by pop princesses had been written over the years.

Zoe had dutifully downloaded every one of them over the past few weeks as part of her exhaustive research into the life and times and various offensive behaviors of Hunter Grant, the worst-behaved NFL quarterback in recent history. She needed to know every single thing about him if she was going to use him like her own, personal weapon.

And she was. He just didn't know it yet.

"And what have you quit that makes you an expert on the subject?" she asked now. "Besides football, I mean."

"I didn't quit football. I was fired. With extreme prejudice. You can read about it in all the tabloids."

"I'm thinking, then, that maybe you're not the best person in the world to talk to about quitting things."

Hunter's mouth curved. "I don't give a shit what you quit or don't quit, honey. But I'd like you a whole lot better if you were naked."

It was a pity he was even more attractive in person, Zoe thought then. It was that careless dark blond hair that never seemed to be fully tamed no matter how short he cut it. That gorgeous face of his, with eyes that should have been pretty and high cheekbones that should have been fey, but somehow worked with that pugnacious jaw of his to make him decidedly, almost alarmingly masculine, despite the offensive things he said.

Zoe knew every inch of his famous face, that well-documented smirk, and most of that much-photographed body of his, that today—or last night, more likely—he'd shoved into faded jeans and a tight gray Henley that hugged his rangy male form. He would have been a tabloid favorite anyway because of his wealthy family background, his all-American good looks and his penchant for vapid yet beautiful starlets—but it was his half brat, half thug behavior on the football field that had kept him plastered across every glossy magazine in existence for the rocky decade that had made up his football career.

He's nothing but a frat boy, she thought, smiling at him as if she liked him. Pretty as a picture with malice and entitlement beneath, like all the rest of his kind. She knew. She'd been there a decade ago when he'd proved exactly what kind of man he was. She didn't expect him to remember that, but then, she didn't want him to remember her.

Not yet.

Not until he did what she needed him to do and helped her take down Jason Treffen.

"Looked your fill?"

His voice wasn't friendly or polite, and he didn't flash that absurdly charming smile she'd seen him wield throughout the series of insincere mea culpas he'd issued after each of his many scandals as a football star. He only watched her, in a curiously intent way that made her feel as if she ought to hold her breath.

"I'm not admiring you," Zoe said coolly, and she wasn't. Of course she wasn't.

"Don't you think you should?" His voice was as lazy as ever but still, she heard the challenge in it. The thrown gauntlet—because, as expected, he couldn't resist. "I'm usually the object of intense and potentially lifealtering admiration. It's but one of my many burdens to bear."

She was surprised that some part of her wanted to laugh at the way he said that, with that sardonic lash that suggested he was far more self-aware than she'd imagined. But she didn't know what to do with that, so instead of exploring it, she got down to business. She dug into her bag, opened her wallet and handed her credit card to the nearest dancer, not looking away from Hunter until the other woman took it from her fingers.

"Take this. Take them. And don't let anyone come back over here unless I say it's okay," she ordered her.

She stared at the dancer until the woman did as she was told with only a quick glance at Hunter, herding the pack of strippers out of Hunter's booth with a single jerk of her head.

"It's like you're my fairy godmother," he said when they were left alone, a hint of a drawl in his voice, reminding her he'd spent the past decade in Texas. If possible, he seemed even lazier than before now that there was only him in the booth. And, somehow, bigger. "But I'm all grown up now. I can pay for my own strippers."

Zoe settled herself on the seat next to him so she could turn toward him, the better to quietly block him in where he sat. The gleam in his gaze told her he knew exactly what she was doing. That he let her do it. She ignored the gleam.

"Congratulations, Mr. Grant," she said crisply. "This is your lucky day."

"It felt a lot luckier five minutes ago, before you scared off all the half-naked women."

"I set up an appointment through your manager, but it appears you prefer to operate through more casual channels these days."

"If that's a convoluted way of saying I told Harvey to go fuck himself, you are correct."

Zoe smiled. Harvey Speer was a frothing bulldog of a sports agent, well-known for creating insurmountable barriers between his clients and the world, so she'd hardly weep salty tears if he wasn't involved in Hunter's life any longer. It made what she wanted to do with him that much easier.

"I'm Zoe Brook," she told him now. "You really should know that already. I'm the best PR agent in New York City, if not the whole world, and I'm going to rehabilitate your image—which I think we can both agree is more than a little tarnished."

He eyed her for a long moment, and she was sure she saw something hollow move through his gaze, stark and almost painful, completely at odds with the shallow, degenerate man she knew he'd been all his life. But then his mouth kicked up in one corner, his eyes shone blue and clear, and she was certain she'd imagined it.

"I'll pass," he said. She had the strangest notion that he was dangerous, suddenly, which was absurd, but he never moved that unnervingly direct gaze from hers. "Send some of those strippers back over here on your way out, won't you?"

She let her smile go sharp. "You misunderstand me. I'm not asking you if you'd like me to do it. I'm telling you that I will."

"Is this a fan thing?" he asked, his voice still mild but his gaze intent. "Some stalker fantasy? Knock yourself out. Rehab away. But please don't expect me to have anything to do with it. I like my notoriety just fine the way it is."

Zoe laughed. "Oh, I'm not a fan."

"It's okay to admit it. I have a lot of fans, even now. Some of them like to make up complicated little stories to get close to me, and I don't really mind. I don't care who you are. But then again, I don't much care who I am, either."

"Let's be honest, shall we, Mr. Grant?"

"By all means. All this flattery is making me dizzy. Of course, I'm drunk."

Except she didn't think he was. His gaze was too sharp, there were no bottles on the table, and she was sitting so close to him that if there'd been any alcohol on his breath, she'd have been able to smell it. Why would he want her to think he was drunk if he wasn't? She shook that off, then leaned in, her smile hard.

"You have the kind of throwing arm that makes strong, silent men weep tears of joy, yet you've treated it shabbily and without the slightest respect throughout your career," she said coolly. "Your bad behavior is legendary and you quite possibly lost your team the Super Bowl this year. On top of that, you were—literally, it's rumored—born with a silver spoon stuck in your patrician mouth as the heir to the great Grant fortune, meaning no one is ever likely to sympathize with you. About anything."

"The rumors are wrong." His smile was bland. "Unless you mean the sort of silver spoon more commonly used to snort large quantities of cocaine. Those we pass down during our strange puberty rituals, one stuffy WASP to the next. The first exchange took place on the Mayflower, I think. It's a genetic imperative at this point."

Zoe was surprised that she wanted to smile at that bit of nonsense. Possibly even laugh. But surely that was weakness, and she didn't allow any of that. Not any longer. Certainly not with someone like him, who wasn't high on cocaine any more than he was drunk, but apparently wanted to be thought both.

But she wasn't here to understand him, only to use him.

"You could have sailed straight into some investment bank after Harvard and played with all of your Monopoly money for the rest of your life like your father and grandfather before you, but you opted for professional football instead, to the enduring dismay of your snooty, upper-crust relatives. Everyone expected you'd be crushed as a rookie, but instead, you dominated. You should be one of the great success stories of the age, an athlete with an Ivy League-trained mind. A role model for our time." She eyed him, not making the slightest effort to hide her disdain. "A hero among men."

"Sadly," Hunter said, and though his smile never wavered, she was sure that she saw something dark move over his face again before he hid it, "I'm only me. Though my wasted potential haunts me, I promise."

That wasn't darkness, Zoe told herself firmly. That was emptiness. He was nothing but a pretty shell wrapped tight around nothing at all. Which was precisely why she'd chosen him to push the repulsive Jason Treffen where she wanted him, at last. She'd spent a few hellish years under Jason's control, and she remembered three men in particular from that long-ago December night that had convinced her she had to save herself or die. Jason's own son, Austin, now a lawyer like his evil father. Alex Diaz, now an investigative reporter. And Hunter, the rich and pretty football player, clearly not the brains of the trio. She'd decided that now she was finally ready to do what needed to be done, Hunter would be the easiest to manipulate. Obviously.

"I doubt that very much," she said now, her voice light, though her stare was anything but, and she was surprised he returned it so steadily. That he didn't so much as flinch.

"You're more likely than not a complete and utter blank, straight through to your benighted soul. One shade up from sociopathic, if I had to guess. The good news is this makes you a perfect candidate for a high-profile corporate position, which I'm assuming has to be your next move. Or let me rephrase that. It should be, and I can help you achieve that."

"I'll hand it to you…" She thought that smile of his sharpened, that there was more of that temper there, just behind the blue of his eyes as he leaned in closer as if he was sharing his secrets. "This is certainly a unique approach."

It was the age-old carrot-and-stick routine, in fact, and he shouldn't seem so aware of it yet simultaneously unruffled by it. Zoe forged on.

"It's the transition from football-field temper tantrum to corporate dominance that needs to be refined," she continued, still sounding so airy and easy, despite the fact this wasn't going quite how she'd imagined it would. "What you need to learn is how to hide your true face better."

"I don't hide my true face at all," he said, and there was something quietly devastating in the way he said it. It struck Zoe like a blow, low and hard, and she didn't know why. "What would be the point? Everyone's already seen it."

Zoe crossed her legs, settling back against her seat as if she, too, was completely relaxed, here in this tawdry place, in the company of a man who should have disgusted her—who had disgusted her, and thoroughly, before she'd started talking to him. She ignored that odd pang inside her at the dark look on his face, the leftover echo of that strange blow.

"I find it's better to beware rich and powerful men who are also renowned for their good looks, because they tend to believe their own bullshit and usually don't even know they're lying. And they're always lying, especially when they claim to be telling the truth."

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Scandalize Me 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Sharon_Arundel More than 1 year ago
This is an interesting and well-written story that grabbed my attention immediately. The characters and their dialogue is interesting and sometimes funny. This is a story that has quite a few layers to it. Although it’s part of a trilogy it can be read as an individual novel, but obviously it is much better as the second of the three. There is a lot of drama, mystery, intrigue and emotion in this story. It’s a wonderful read.
Bookeroo More than 1 year ago
Zoe only saw Hunter as a means to an end. She was going to use him to get her revenge and that was it. It didn't matter that he was a gorgeous hunk of an ex-pro football player…or that he could immediately heat her up with just a look. When Zoe first came looking for him, Hunter only saw a hot babe. He thought she was just one more woman looking to get a piece of his body. So, she wants to clean up his image? He doesn't really care about his image, but he'll give Zoe a chance to show him what she's up to. Can Zoe and Hunter's close proximity lead to anything but trouble? I enjoyed Scandalize Me and the "revenge" scenario gives the characters an added edge to their relationship, which easily spices the story up. The story has depth with an emotional storyline and realistic characters. Through all their issues, Zoe and Hunter made their relationship work in a unique and heartwarming way. As they tried to keep their feelings remote and their needs strictly physical, they came to the realization that they didn't want to let each other go. That also added spice to the story. With all the issues involved, I was a little slow to pick up on the actual romantic aspect of the story, but felt it made the story closer to life and less like a romantic fantasy. I did enjoy this second book in the Fifth Avenue series and look forward to reading the next!
Sandy-thereadingcafe More than 1 year ago
3.75 stars:  SCANDALIZE ME is the second instalment in the adult contemporary, erotic 5th Avenue Trilogy with each subsequent storyline written by a different author.  SCANDALIZE ME written by Caitlin Crews follows Hunter Talbot Grant III –a quarterback whose fall from grace has placed him in PR agent Zoe Brook’s sights.   Once again, the overall focus of the series is the take down of billionaire lawyer and philanthropist Jason Treffen-a man whose  polished public image hides the destructive nature of his truer deviant tendencies. Ten years earlier following the horrific and public suicide of one of Jason’s office assistants, three men including Jason’s son, have lived with the overwhelming guilt that somehow they were to blame. When a letter is sent to Austin Treffen a few months earlier explaining the who and why of Sarah Michaels’s death, the three friends-Austin, Hunter and Alex-must relive every painful moment as they come to grips with what happened and why. The premise of SCANDALIZE ME finds Zoe Brook offering the one time football hero her public relations service-but Zoe has a secret- a dark and demeaning secret- one that connects her to the death of Sarah Michaels and the man everyone wants to take down. When she offers Hunter a chance to redeem his public persona, Zoe will become lost in the dynamic personality and sexual aura that is Hunter Talbot Grant III. The attraction between Zoe and Hunter is immediate and not without some complications. Hunter’s reputation as a man whore only increases Zoe’s need to fix the man whose destructive path began when Sarah Michaels took her own life. Zoe intends to manipulate Hunter to help her trap Jason Treffen but finds she is caught in the web of Hunter’s sexual seduction. Zoe’s past slowly eats away at her self image and self esteem, and falling into Hunter’s bed only cements the truth she believes about herself. One major drawback for me in this particular instalment is the slow build up to what it is Zoe wants from Hunter. Not until two-thirds of the story had elapsed did Hunter discover what it is Zoe needed from him and why. In this, the reader is pulled into a long, drawn out angry seduction of Hunter Grant by Zoe Brook.  Zoe continued to battle her own demons, struggling to find a way to convince Hunter that he was her weapon of choice in the battle to destroy Jason Treffen. Zoe comes across as cold, heartless and not easily moved but the mask that she wears hides a tormented and broken soul. SCANDALIZE ME takes the reader one step closer to the destruction of Jason Treffen-a man who uses, abuses and destroys the most vulnerable of women and men.  Caitlin Crews adds her spin on a tale of the ultimate revenge against a man who is psychopathic in his actions and cold in his intent.  
PureJonel More than 1 year ago
This is a well and insightfully written tale.  I was quite captivated with the story and thoroughly enjoyed reading it.  Crews paints a picture of hope and despair that keeps you captivated throughout.  Her writing style and voice serve to highlight not only the overall story, but the personality of the main character.   I must admit, I’m normally not a fan of multi-author series, but this one is absolutely perfect.  The storylines & the authors’ writing styles writing styles work amazingly well together.  There is a distinct difference in the tones & voice of the novels that match perfectly with the characters at hand.  The tone of this story actually sets your perception of the main characters and their relationship to one another.  The undercurrent runs through the entire novel, giving you a sense of foreboding & excitement.  But Crews doesn’t stop at that with her character development.  She adds a sense of approachability and realism to those individuals who are simply individuals in the media for most of us.  The supporting cast also helps to round out his novel.  They are not only individuals in their own right, but also as the lifelong friends that the main characters depend on for support.  Together they serve as the perfect cast for this intriguing tale.   My biggest issue is not with this novel, but with the series as a whole.  And it’s more of a question than an issue, at that.  What chance of fate manages to get every man that Jason Treffen has wronged set up with one of the women he wronged?  It’s an irony that you don’t see in the individual instalments, but only when you look at the series as a whole.  At the same time, it’s also one of the elements that makes the series so memorable.   Overall, this was  a great addition to the Fifth Avenue trilogy.  I’d recommend it to anyone and can’t wait to read more. Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this work in exchange for an honest review.
Megan_BedroomBookworms More than 1 year ago
3.5 Stars I liked the overall plot this series of books has going on with trying to take the “bad guy” down. Each couple in their own book plays a small part in the larger take down. Even though I like the overall idea, this book was just a little lacking for me in certain areas. Zoe is a 32 year old PR person who has the insta-love thing with Hunter Grant a 33 year old quarterback who was recently ejected from the NFL. We met Hunter in book one and heard how his story fit in with the other all characters. In book one, Hunter came off as the big, quiet tough guy, I was really expecting a fight from his character when it came to his love interest. Imagine my surprise when we meet Zoe and realize she’s even more closed off and emotionally damaged than Hunter. I mean don’t get me wrong she has her reasons, but I really expected Hunter to be the one we had to work with. Because of Zoe’s, we’ll call it reluctance to admit that insta-love she felt at the first touch, it’s Hunter who become the one relationship obsessed. He becomes a big softy in a way with his acceptance of not only their relationship but in helping Zoe work through her issues and accept them as well. I like it because we were able to see the softer side of Hunter, but at the same time I felt like it didn’t really do his character justice. Quite honestly this book was light on plot, but filled to the brim with descriptions. The two over thought everything and discribed every emotion and touch they could be feeling. There were pages of how hot they found one another and vivid descriptions of how each touch made them feel. And there was a lot of touching. The over analyzing of every touch actually made it harder for me to really enjoy those bedroom scenes once we got to them. I found myself skipping full paragraphs once I realized that it was just full of thoughts. The plot in Scandalize Me is short and the descriptions add no real depth to the story only page numbers, but I find myself wrapped up in their overall story and plots to bring Jason down. I’ll definitely be reading the third in the series when it is released, Expose Me by Kate Hewitt. This is the third story in the series and I believe will bring about the conclusion to the overall story.
ToryMichaels More than 1 year ago
This was a great series idea by HP. The second in the series definitely didn't disappoint. I was held riveted by Zoe's drive to get back at the monster the entire series is built around bringing down, and I liked how she used Hunter to get her closer to her goal. Hunter...ahhh, such a man. Once he understands WHY Zoe wants to get involved, he does his part. I like his pact with the other men involved in bringing Treffen down. This was a good mid-point book and I really like the build toward the conclusion in book 3.