"A completely original storyline with well-rounded characters..."
RT Book Reviews on LESSON IN ROMANCE
Stealing Kisses (Harlequin Kimani Romance Series #355)by Harmony Evans
Passion's the greatest score of all
Life coach Natalie Kenyon helps her famous clients achieve happiness and lasting intimacy in their personal lives. But pro-basketball all-star Derek Lansing isn't so easy to pin down. His rags-to-riches story takes hold of Natalie's heart and his first electric touch ignites an irresistible desire. It could be a/p>
Passion's the greatest score of all
Life coach Natalie Kenyon helps her famous clients achieve happiness and lasting intimacy in their personal lives. But pro-basketball all-star Derek Lansing isn't so easy to pin down. His rags-to-riches story takes hold of Natalie's heart and his first electric touch ignites an irresistible desire. It could be a loselose if she becomes the sexy player's next conquest.
Derek is living every athlete's dream, surrounded by adoring fans and available women. But he still feels alone. Beneath his freewheeling playboy facade is a man yearning for redemption. As he struggles to get a slam dunk with the stunning, strong-willed Natalie, who is determined to reunite him with his family, he's forced to relinquish his guard and show her the real man behind the celebrity. As passion brings them closer together, Derek will do what it takes to score a winwin with the woman who's run off with his most valuable possessionhis heart.
"A completely original storyline with well-rounded characters..."
Read an Excerpt
For the first time in her life Natalie Kenyon wished she was late. The explosive echo of the basketball sounded like a dire warning as she stood inside the New York Skylarks practice court.
Whether it was doing her own taxes or carefully screening any man who wanted to date her, Natalie left nothing to chance, especially where her heart was concerned.
She was always on time and always in control.
The thump-thump of the basketball intensified, reminding Natalie that she was here for one reason: to change Derek Lansing's life.
She was sure Derek would be like the rest of her clients: wildly successful, yet highly inefficient in their day-to-day lives. As a life coach she advised her A-list clientele on everything from time management and goal-setting to relationships and intimacy. She loved her job and she was good at it.
Then why was her stomach churning as it used to before a big competition? The former professional ice-skater chastised herself for being nervous.
"Ridiculous," Natalie muttered. "He's just another client."
Peering around a row of seats, she caught a glimpse of the popular basketball star and clamped her hand over her mouth in shock.
Derek was shooting baskets with such ferocity it was as though his whole life depended on making every shot. The man was an island. His eyes were totally focused on the net, on the goal.
Yet her eyes were all over him.
He was tall, perhaps six feet six inches, and lean-muscled with rich dark brown skin that glistened with sweat. His shoulder-length jet-black dreadlocks swayed rhythmically with his every movement, teasing her imagination.
When he grabbed the last ball from the cart, he yelled something she couldn't understand. His legs, powerfully built and tense with virile energy, sprung into the air, seeming to master space and time.
She held her breath, her eyes following the arc of the ball to its final destination. But at the last moment it missed the net, slammed the backboard and bounced to the floor, rolling in her direction.
Derek swung off the rim, landed on the floor, grabbed his knees and howled. The pain in that sound went straight to her heart. She recognized it.
It was the sound of desperation, of a soul cracked wide open and laid bare to an empty room that couldn't judge, couldn't laugh.
So this is Derek Lansing, Natalie thought. Number seventeen. Star forward for the New York Skylarks.
She adjusted her purse, checked her watch and smiled. She was right on schedule.
Time to turn his world upside down.
Natalie walked out onto the court and stopped the basketball with the heel of her black stiletto boot.
"Looking for this?" she asked, one hand on her hip to steady herself.
Derek uncurled his body, slow and easy, like a bear emerging from hibernation. He stood still, chest heaving, and her heart raced as his eyes slid down her legs and traveled back up her body.
Under the bright lights, her right eye twitched involuntarily and she realized with horror that he probably thought she was winking at him. She dropped the diva pose and almost lost her balance, but quickly regained it.
He strode over to her, his face like stone.
"This is a private practice. No fans allowed."
He sounded irritated and she realized he was probably embarrassed that he'd missed the shot.
Yet his eyes, gray and thick-lashed, rounded her face with keen interest. "Not even beautiful ones."
Warmth flooded her body at his compliment, although she knew he probably didn't mean it to sound as intimate as it did.
"Where's the guard?" he muttered, looking over her head toward the door.
She laughed, releasing some of her nervousness. "Do I look dangerous to you?"
His eyes seemed to take possession of her curves as they roamed her body again, leaving a trail of fire.
His lips tilted up. "Depends on which part you're talking about."
She crossed her arms over her chest, her stiletto boot barely teetering on the ball. "Excuse me?"
With no response, he pulled up his shirt and she almost fell off the ball again, but he only wiped the sweat from his face.
A rush of desire poured through her at the sight of his abdomen, cut deep with muscles, and she wondered what it would feel like if her tongue were to take a slow ride in the deep valleys of his rich brown skin.
Oh, Lord, it had been so long since she 'd touched a man.
She moistened her lips involuntarily just as he stepped forward, gathering his locks into a low pony-tail, and her face heated again.
"Well?" he said, peering down at her.
He was so close, only an arm's length away. The urge to reach out and touch his skin, glistening with sweat, was so strong she barely heard him.
He poked her on the shoulder. "Are you going to give it to me or am I going to have to play you for it?"
Caught off guard, her head snapped up. "What are you talking about?"
Her eyes darted up to his face where amusement danced in his gray eyes.
He pointed at her foot. "How about a little one-on-one?" he teased. "Fan against man."
Her eyes widened and she looked away. The meeting was not going according to plan. It had been a while since a man had rendered her completely speechless, both in his looks and his manner. He'd thrown her for a loop, but now it was time to get things back under her control.
Trying to avoid looking at his muscular legs, she bent her knees as gracefully as her black pencil skirt would allow and picked up the ball. After adjusting her purse, she placed the ball snugly within the crook of her left arm.
"Mr. Lansing. We have a meeting that was supposed to start" she checked her watch and frowned "two minutes ago. I am not a fan and I am most certainly not here to play games. I'm here to discuss the rules of engagement and the clock is ticking."
Derek placed his hand over his chest, his eyes absorbing hers like a secret told under the covers. "I didn't know we were getting married," he replied.
The intimacy in his tone stirred an intense yearning and a long-held dream, neither of which would likely be fulfilled.
Natalie was used to denying her needs to focus on the task at hand, but she was finding it very difficult to concentrate in front of this way-too-gorgeous man.
She lifted her chin. "Not married, Mr. Lansing. Organized. Your manager called me this morning and I came right over. He said you needed a little help."
Derek burst out laughing. "Wow, when I told Tony I needed a personal assistant, I was just joking. I never thought he'd actually hook me up with one."
Natalie clutched the ball tighter, bristling inside. "I am not your personal assistant," she replied in a terse tone. "I am your life coach."
He clasped his hands loosely on his hips. "What's the difference?"
She smiled, happy to provide a definition. "Easy. A personal assistant is at your beck and call. She or he runs around doing everything you want. A life coach helps you set goals so you can manage your time and your life more efficiently."
His doubtful look irked her to the core, so it was time to break it down to brass tacks.
"I'm not your go-for, Mr. Lansing. I'm your life-saver."
He raised a brow, and it was clear he was trying not to laugh again.
"Oh-h. Now you're talking my language. My favorite flavor is orange. What flavor are you?"
She exhaled so hard the ball almost popped out of her grasp. Pushing aside her frustration, she looked into his eyes and nearly smiled at what she saw. One twinkled with mischief, the other with mayhem. Clearly the man enjoyed stirring up a fuss, making her crazy with something she'd rather not think about right now.
"Can you be serious, please?" she huffed, forcing the ball back into place.
He shrugged indifferently and then walked around her in a circle making imaginary free throws.
"How can I be serious when you haven't even told me your name?"
Now it was her turn to be embarrassed. How could she have forgotten something as simple as an introduction? No wonder things were so out of her control.
"Sorry. I'm Natalie Kenyon," she said, fishing a business card out of her purse. "I own a company called StarCoach, Inc. I help my clients with time management, organization and motivation."
He stopped walking and his fingertips leaned against hers for the briefest of moments as he took the card from her grasp. After a quick glance, he stuck it into the waistband of his navy-blue basketball shorts and wrested the ball from her grasp.
"Thanks. But the only thing I need to keep track of is right here in my hands."
He spun the basketball on his index finger, and kept it going with the other hand. "My whole world revolves around the game. It's all that matters to me."
She crossed her arms and, with a twinge of guilt, took aim.
"That's not what the headlines say."
Derek flinched and swung his head toward hers. The ball dropped to the floor with a loud twang and he grabbed it before it bounced a second time.
Natalie knew she'd hit a nerve, but sometimes she had to play hard, especially when a client was as stubborn as Derek seemed to be.
"Oh, yeah?" He smirked. "What's the latest?"
She met his eyes, spoke softly. "That you're on a three-game suspension for not showing up at morning practices for the past month. You've been irresponsible, unfocused and like a different personboth on and off the court."
Derek bounced the ball a few times, a bored expression on his face.
"They fit all that in a headline?"
She tapped her foot rapidly. As attractive as he was, he was really testing her patience this morning.
"You don't seem to be taking this situation very seriously," she said in a calm voice.
He shrugged and bounced the ball again. "Would you?"
"Absolutely," she said, nodding. In fact, she took everything seriously. It was one of her worst faults. Behind her calm and poised demeanor, she was a bundle of nervous energy that was never satisfied.
His face went hard, but there was pain in his eyes. "Then you must care what people think about you. Thankfully, I don't have that problem."
One massive hand palmed the ball and he pointed it at her. "So you can just take your Gucci purse, and all the little motivational brochures you probably got stuffed in there, on down to Wall Street. With this economy, those guys need it more than I do."
Her heart sank, but she was intrigued rather than dismayed by his attitude. Derek wasn't a typical A-lister. Instead of soaking up the adoration of his fans, Derek seemed almost resentful of the attention. The psychologist in her wanted to know why.
A memory slashed her brain, rocked her back into the past. She'd been in his place before. Esteemed and highly regarded one minute, forgotten and scorned the next. She could help him before it was too late. If he would only let her.
She took a chance, reached out and touched his arm. It was thick with tension. "I'm not here about me," she said quietly. "I'm here for you."
He took a couple of steps back, as if she was offering something that would hurt rather than help him.
The playfulness on his face was gone and his voice was like stone again.
"And I'm here to play ball. No more. No less. And as much as I would love to stand here and stare at that pretty face of yours, I've got to get back to the court."
And with a squeak of his sneaker, he turned and walked away, dribbling the ball and whistling as though he didn't have a care in the world.
But he wasn't fooling her. She knew how easy it was to pretend.
Derek was supertalented, handsome and wealthy. But even without a degree in psychology, Natalie could tell that beneath the bad-boy attitude was a man who was in pain. It was clear he would require a different, non-traditional approach to get him on board with her plan.
Checking her watch, she mentally ticked off the to-do items on her schedule for the rest of the day, and decided she could squeeze in some minor inconvenience.
As quietly as she could, she set her purse on the floor and slowly unzipped her boots. After a brief glance around to make sure she was alone, she pulled off her panty hose and unbuttoned the top button of her shirt.
With a quick toe flex, she sprinted like a gazelle toward Derek and stole the ball from him middribble. She rounded him for the layup and, mercifully, the ball went up, over and through the basket.
She caught it and passed it to Derek so hard he nearly dropped the ball. She wanted to laugh out loud at the surprised look on his face.
"What's the matter?" she teased, shifting her bare feet back and forth, ready to charge forth. "You said you wanted to play one-on-one, didn't you?"
Derek dribbled the ball a few times and she could tell he was doing his best to appear unruffled by the sudden change in her appearance, and her attitude.
Meet the Author
Harmony Evans writes sexy, emotional contemporary love stories. She won "Debut Author of the Year" for the Romance Slam Jam 2013 Emma Awards and was a double finalist for the 2012 Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice Awards. She lives in New York City. For more love stories that last a lifetime, visit www.harmonyevans.com or follow @harmonyannevans.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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Harmony did an excellent job developing this love story. It is a must read. The love bloomed ftom the beginning and continued strong throughout the novel.
Good read. Enjoyed the story