A sexy category romance from Entangled's Brazen imprint...
He's looking for love. She's looking for trouble...
As a successful doctor and weekend cowboy, Chase Cooper enjoys a full life with plenty of female company. But lately, something hasn't felt right. He's been distracted. Antsy. Damn it, he's been lonely. With an eye on settling down with a nice girl, Coop invites his high school best friend down to his ranch to see if maybe she's the one for him...
Instead, her twin sister shows up. The one who loathes him.
Julia Blair is already halfway to Coop's ranch when she learns the invitation wasn't for her, but her vivacious twin sister. She has two choices: slink back home, or see just how far this farce will go. One glance at hotter-than-sin Coop, and she knows she's playing a dangerously hot game. Because what this cowboy wants, this cowboy gets...
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|Publisher:||Entangled Publishing, LLC|
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.26(d)|
Read an Excerpt
A Playing for Keeps novella
By Cathryn Fox, Candace Havens
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2015 Cathryn Fox
All rights reserved.
Ten years ago
Chase Cooper grabbed the strap on Jag's backpack and gave a good hard tug, hauling him back to the sidewalk seconds before an SUV would have slammed into him harder than their rival school's linebacker at the last football game. The driver blared his horn as he sped by, offering Coop and his two buddies his middle finger.
"Fuck you," Mac said, retaliating with two fingers as he shuffled on the curb, daring the guy to come back and fight.
"Huh?" Jag said, lifting his eyes from his phone.
Coop shook his head. "Are you trying to get yourself killed?" He looked over Jag's shoulder, trying to get a glimpse of his phone. "What are you watching that's so important, anyway?"
Mac jumped from the curb. "Probably porn," he supplied.
Jag grinned. "Fuck you." He powered his phone down and shoved it into his low-hanging jeans.
"What the fuck is the matter with you, dude?" Coop checked traffic and darted across the street, the six beers he'd taken from his father's fridge banging together in his backpack.
"I need to get laid," Jag shot back. "That's what's the matter with me." Grinning, Jag shoved Coop toward a streetlight. "I don't get it on a daily basis like you do, asshole."
Coop moved around a lamppost and cut between houses, slipping through their yards to take a shortcut to Mari's house. "I told you, Mari and I are friends."
Mac snorted. "You mean fuck friends, right?"
Coop frowned and drove his hands in his pockets. "For the hundredth time, no, we don't fuck." Why was he even bothering to defend himself with these two wiseasses? "Just because we hang out, laugh, and have a great time together doesn't mean we're having sex."
Jag scoffed. "Then why is she always getting half naked in front of you?"
"She's a model." He pushed through her front gate. "She's used to wearing next to nothing."
Jag rubbed his hands together. "Just the way I like them."
They walked the pathway leading to Mari's front door, and Coop jumped onto the grass. "Come on," he said quietly.
Mac groaned. "Fuck's sake, Coop, why do we always have to go through the window? You got something against using the front door?" Keeping tight on his heels, his friends followed him around a bush to Mari's window.
The three of them had quite the reputation around town, and Mari's folks weren't all that fond of their daughter hanging out with them, which was why Coop went to great lengths to avoid a run-in with them. "I just prefer to use her window."
Jag bent and peered through the glass. "Is this the one you crawl in when she gets half naked for you?"
"Fuck off," Coop said, and quietly slid the glass up. The guys were wrong. He and Mari weren't having sex and never had. She might walk around half naked, and of course she was totally fuckable, but there was another girl he couldn't get out of his head — one who was off-limits and couldn't be bothered to give him the time of day anyway.
He threw his right leg over the windowsill and followed through with his hips, grunting at the tight squeeze.
"You might want to lay off those cheeseburgers, dude," Jag said.
Mac burst out laughing.
Closing his eyes, Coop prayed Mari's parents were heavy sleepers, because his ass hanging over the sill would make the perfect target for a load of buckshot. He pushed through, jumped to his feet, and waved the guys in.
Jag and Mac scrambled in behind him, giggling like little girls as they shoved at each other, then plunked themselves down on Mari's unmade bed. Coop glanced around, but Mari was nowhere to be found. A noise sounded from inside her big walk-in closet, and he motioned for the guys to be quiet.
Lowering his backpack to the floor, he crept across the carpet. Last week she'd sneaked up on him at the soccer field — damn near scared the shit out of him. She had a good laugh over that, but now tonight was payback.
He grabbed the double doors and flung them open. "Got ya ..." His voice fell off when his eyes connected with Mari's twin sister — Mari's very naked twin sister.
As the girl of his dreams went poker straight before him, the dress in her hands fell from her fingers, making a whooshing sound as it sailed to the floor.
"I ... uh ..." His voice must have snapped her back.
"What the hell!" She quickly put her hands over her body and turned sideways, curving her back and giving him the sweetest, sexiest view of her perfect ass. Fuck.
She might be Mari's twin, and he'd seen Mari's body numerous times, but it didn't compare to Julia's. His cock thickened, and at the base of his neck, his pulse jackhammered. Christ, he wanted her in the worst way, but she was his best friend's sister and he had been warned that she was off-limits.
"Get out," she said, a pink flush moving up her neck to her cheeks. "I'm not Mari."
His friends laughed, and Coop clenched his teeth, ready to kill them. But if he moved, he'd expose her, and he wasn't about to cause her any more embarrassment. He glanced over his shoulder. "Cut it out," he warned and widened his stance to block their view and give her the privacy she deserved.
"Now," she said.
He grabbed a fistful of hair. "Look, I'm ... I'm ... a ..."
She leveled him with a stare, those whiskey eyes with the honey flecks holding him in place. "Is 'pervert' the word you're looking for?" she asked.
He wanted to leave, to drag his eyes from her, but honor was waging war with his dick ... and losing. Plus he'd flung the doors open, and if he backed up now, his friends would see her. He grabbed Mari's robe hanging on the inside hook bedside him, handed it to her, and forced his eyes to the shoe box over her head as she snatched it from him.
"Listen, I'm sorry. I thought you were ..."
"I know who you thought I was."
Cotton rasped over her skin, and he envied the robe as she pulled it on. "If I'd have known it was you in here, I would have just left" — he paused and jerked his thumb over his shoulder — "and dragged those two assholes with me. I'd never want to walk in on you naked, Julia. Never. It was a mistake."
"I know," she said, her voice going so low, he had to strain to hear it. "I'm not my sister."
His gaze darted back to hers, and his throat tightened when he saw the pained look on her face. What the hell? Did she think she wasn't as beautiful as Mari, as desirable? That he would have just left, because her nakedness was repulsive or something? She might not be as outgoing or popular as her sister, but that didn't mean he didn't want her — or didn't want to see her naked. Because hell yeah, he did. Right now just wasn't the right time, and he was trying his damnedest to be respectful, no matter how thick his dick was or how badly it was begging him for a little action.
"Julia," he said, touching a strand of her long dark hair. "I didn't mean —"
"What's happening here?" Mari said from her doorway. Coop spun around and found Mari staring at him, dressed in a barely-there bikini, her hands on her hips. She cocked her head. "Is there something I should know?"
"I thought she was you," Coop explained.
Julia pushed past him, "I was looking for that dress I lent you when your boyfriend found me. He didn't know it was me until I told him."
Mari rolled her eyes. "You'd think you could tell us apart by now."
He could. They were identical, but to him they were night and day. "Wait, I can tell —"
"And you never have to worry about anything happening." Julia turned and met his glance straight on. "He's not my type."
Mari zeroed in on his backpack on the floor and bounded toward it. "Did you bring the beer for the beach party?"
No longer in the mood to party, he watched Julia disappear. Christ, he might have just saved Jag from getting run over, but he was the one feeling like he'd just been steamrolled.CHAPTER 2
Julia Blair didn't like surprises, and she liked cryptic messages delivered after midnight even less. She shut the door behind the stranger.
The old wooden floors creaked as she made her way back down the hall of her condo and into her living room. Fighting off a shiver, she tugged her cotton robe tighter around her waist and pushed aside the case files she'd been going over. She sat down in her comfy recliner, read "Ms. Blair" on the envelope, and then turned it over in her hand. She honestly had no idea who'd be delivering a letter to her so late at night, but couldn't discount the possibility that it had come from McGinley and Gregors, the law firm where she worked.
In the window behind her sofa, the air conditioner clanked and coughed like an asthma patient, and she nearly jumped out of her recliner. Living alone smack-dab in the middle of downtown Halifax, she always exercised caution, and at first she wasn't even going to open the door. But when she peeked through her curtains and spotted the courier van, she went ahead and answered, figuring it might be the files she'd been expecting.
Inside, she found what appeared to be an invitation from the owner of a dude ranch. Crinkling her nose in surprise, she read the script. This had to be a mistake. Who would be inviting her to a one-week, all-inclusive vacation to a dude ranch in Alberta beginning this Saturday night, a mere two days away? She sank deeper into her chair, put her feet up, and searched her memory bank. She didn't know anyone in Alberta, let alone anyone who owned a dude ranch. Could it have been an old client?
She grabbed her tablet, punched in the information, and discovered that the ranch and airline voucher were indeed legit. Intriguing. She dug deeper around the ranch's website, hoping to figure out who owned it, but her search came up empty. She peered into the envelope and pulled out a slip of paper. On it she read, "A week of fun and relaxation from your high school secret admirer."
High school secret admirer?
She went on to read the cryptic words, "I'll even watch High in the Sky with you," and stiffened. Since High in the Sky was her favorite movie, whoever sent this invitation knew her very well.
She thought about the crowd she'd hung with years ago. They all knew she'd loved that particular movie, but she couldn't imagine any one of the guys from her clique having a secret crush on her or sending her such a mysterious invitation. The invite had to be for her impetuous sister, Mari, who shared the same tastes as Julia. As a swimsuit model, picking up and flying off to exotic locales was something her sister did on a regular basis. She wasn't in one place long enough to bother with an apartment, and just last month, while in between stints — and parties — she'd spent close to three weeks living in Julia's condo.
Unlike Mari, Julia liked a quieter lifestyle, and wasn't into wild gatherings or casual one-night stands. But the truth was, taking the edge off herself always left her feeling alone, miserable, and in need of the real thing.
She'd spent so much time building her career, she rarely had time for a social life. She'd practically given up on the dating scene, and sometimes wondered if she really was just a jerk magnet.
Her sister was always attracted to successful, handsome men who doted on her — men Julia would love to date. Well, except for that self-centered soccer star from high school who had it all. Looks. Brains. Charisma.
The two were always joined at the hip, hanging at each other's houses and partying together after soccer games. Not that Julia was jealous. She wasn't. Not at all. And she certainly had no desire to live a day in her sister's shoes. Nope, not one little bit. What would she want with a well-known playboy like Chase Cooper, anyway? A guy who had never bothered to give her a second look. Well, except for the one time he'd caught her naked. Then again, he'd thought she was Mari, until she'd set him straight.
Julia let loose a long, slow breath and thought about the real reason guys never spared her a glance. She and Mari might look alike physically, but on the inside, they were completely different people. Julia was dubbed the smart, studious, dedicated sister and worked incredibly hard to get where she was. Mari, on the other hand, was labeled the talented and funny one. She was like a burst of sunshine to all those she touched. There was no denying that her vivacious and outgoing nature had helped play a significant part in her good fortune and plush job.
It was a cliché, Julia knew, but she'd grown up and lived in her sister's shadow long enough to understand the preconceived notions placed on twins. They'd both been stereotyped early on. Now, as a lawyer and a model, the two had gone on to fulfill those predetermined roles.
She read the invitation again. Could it have been meant for her? Whether it was or not, and no matter how tempting it sounded, she didn't have time to drop everything and fly halfway across the country to enjoy a week of R & R with some secret admirer, especially with the high-profile case going before the judge next week. She crinkled the invitation into a ball and tossed it into the trash. If it was for Mari, she was away at some exotic locale shooting a magazine cover and wouldn't be able to make it anyway. And if it was for her, well, she wasn't about to give it another thought.
* * *
Chase Cooper hadn't seen Mari Blair since high school, but it didn't take a whole lot of investigative work for his buddy Jag to discover that she was living in a downtown Halifax condo. Since he found no sign of a husband or children, Coop went forward with his plan to see if he could get her to the ranch — to discover if they could have a future together.
But as he finished securing his gelding in the end stall, he couldn't help but feel a bit anxious about their half-cocked plan. Nor could he help but question his logic as he casually strolled back toward the main lodge.
He took the stairs two at a time up to his private quarters at the far end of the lodge. Heading for the bathroom, he stripped off his sweat-dampened clothes, dropping them in a pile on the tiled floor. As he reached into the shower to turn on the water, his thoughts drifted to Julia Blair, but he shook his head to clear them. After inviting Mari to the ranch, the last person he should be thinking about was her quiet twin sister, the time he walked in on her naked, or how she informed Coop he wasn't her type.
Coop stepped into the shower and grabbed the soap. As he lathered his body, he tried to keep his thoughts on Mari. He recalled the time his group of friends went to Hubbard's Cove. Mari had stripped down that night and had invited Coop into the water with her. He could have gone for it, but never did. Contrary to what everyone thought, he and Mari had never dated, which went against high school protocol, considering he was the captain of the soccer team and she was head cheerleader. Still, they were pretty tight friends back in the day, climbing through each other's bedroom window to hang out or taking in the midnight show when no one else was around.
So why had he never asked her out? Because back then it wasn't Mari he was interested in. No, the truth was, he had it bad for her sister Julia. She ran in completely different circles and wouldn't give him the time of day. In fact, she seemed to despise him after he'd found her in Mari's closet naked. Even if she didn't hate him, there was nothing he could do about his attraction to her. Back in the day, he'd been best friends with her sister, which meant Julia was completely off-limits.
Hell, since getting close to Julia had been off the table, he should have just asked Mari out — to discover sooner rather than later if there could be something more between them. Instead he waited ten long years to do it. He'd never found anyone he enjoyed hanging out with more, which was why he and his two pals, Jag and Mac, had put together an asinine plan to fly the girls from their youth — the ones they thought had gotten away — to the ranch, to see if they could have a future.
He ran the soap over his body, hurrying to get ready before the plane arrived. As he soaped, his cock thickened. Only problem was that as he stroked himself, it wasn't Mari he was thinking about.
Excerpted from Slow Ride by Cathryn Fox, Candace Havens. Copyright © 2015 Cathryn Fox. 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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