LOVE IS PRICELESS in Stealing Taffy by New York Times bestselling author Susan Donovan.
Ten weeks in a swanky Arizona rehab center and Tanyalee Newberry, aka Taffy, is ready to give up everything that isn’t good for herher forgery habit, taking (i.e., stealing) things that don’t belong to her, and, of course, men. But when her flight home gets rerouted, she finds herself in a hotel room with her smoking-hot travel companion. One night together is all it should have been. But passion is oh-so sweet…
Special Agent Dante Cabrera has been duped at his own love-’em-and-leave-’em game by this so-called Taffy. To forget she ever existed, Dante buries himself in his work…until a case leads him to North Carolina and, impossibly, right back to her. He has no business messing around with this felonious femme fatale, especially one who could be in more danger than she thinks. But Dante also knows there’s more to her than great looks and hot nightsa soul-searching woman who wants amend her past sins. Is he ready to take their desire to the next level…and steal Taffy’s heart?
“A funny, sizzling romantic adventure that readers [will] love.” RT Book Reviews on I Want Candy
About the Author
SUSAN DONOVAN’s novels have won accolades for being witty, sexy, and entertaining. A former newspaper reporter with journalism degrees from Northwestern University, Susan is a New York Times and USA Today bestseller whose novels have been translated into dozens of languages. Susan is a two-time RITA Award finalist, and her novel Take a Chance on Me was named Best Contemporary Romance of 2003 by RT Book Reviews Magazine. She lives in New Mexico with her family and assorted dogs.
Read an Excerpt
By Susan Donovan
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2016 Susan Donovan
All rights reserved.
Of course she noticed him. Tanyalee Marie Newberry might have been fresh out of rehab, but she wasn't dead.
And anyway, admiring a grade A specimen of man at an airport had nothing to do with relationship addiction, per se, which, according to the therapists at Sedona Sunset, was her primary issue. That was in addition to her tendency to overshop, of course, and her occasional brush with kleptomania, all issues that no longer plagued her, thankyoubabyJesus.
So admire away she did.
The man in question sat facing Tanyalee, four aisles down in the boarding area, texting on his smartphone. At first glance he seemed like any other businessman passing through Chicago O'Hare. Upon closer inspection, however, she could tell there was something more going on. He looked too dangerous to be wearing those shiny leather loafers. She could tell by the way his body sprawled in the chair that he was a biiiig man, but without an ounce of chub on him. With the thick, black (and slightly too long) hair and swarthy complexion, he might very well have been a Greek tycoon. Or an Italian prince. Or maybe an Olympic gold medalist in one of the more manly events, such as wrestling or martial arts.
It could happen.
She tilted her head and pretended to stretch, in case he glanced up and mistakenly believed she was staring at him, which would be ridiculous, since Tanyalee didn't stare at men. That would be improper, and also unnecessary, since men did plenty of staring without her encouragement. No, this was nothing more than some harmless people-watching.
So Tanyalee let her watchful gaze roam all over his person. He wore a nicely tailored summer-weight suit, slightly rumpled. He'd probably been traveling a lot. He was clearly well into his thirties, which made him a little too old for her since Tanyalee wasn't even quite thirty herself, but then again, she was admiring, not flirting or looking for husband, for heaven's sake, so it wasn't as if she needed to see his birth certificate!
Lord-ee, when did it get so damn hot in here?
She looked away and fanned herself. Then she faked a yawn and let her gaze wander his way again.
That's when the man's attention shot up from his phone and his darkly intense gaze stabbed right into her. Tanyalee froze, her mouth still gaping from her pretend yawn, her hand still hovering in mid-fan. He didn't look away. He didn't flinch. He didn't blink. There was power in those eyes, grabbing her, asking a dozen questions to which he already knew the answers. His stare sliced right through the airport commotion and stripped her bare. Analyzed her. Pinned her down and spread her out like a beetle in a bug collection. The corner of his lip twitched.
Oh! It took Tanyalee a moment to recover her composure, but she snapped her lips closed, folded her hands in her lap, and turned away, offended.
Well, I never! She decided the big man in the rumpled suit had a lot of nerve, looking at her like that, like she was a piece of meat, or some wanton little ... some sort of common ...
Oh, sweet Jesus, now her panties were damp and it would be three hours before her flight landed in Raleigh-Durham, followed by a four-hour bus ride home to Bigler. She needed to regroup.
Tanyalee caught her own reflection in the tinted-glass wall of windows. Admittedly, she did look the teensiest bit shell-shocked, but her chignon was in place, her makeup had stayed perfect, and her creamy off-white linen trousers and soft peach cotton-blend twinset remained the picture of understated casual elegance.
She sighed with relief. After all the shit she'd been through in the last year, she thanked the Lord that some things hadn't changed.
* * *
Dante Cabrera tossed his carry-on into the overhead compartment, silently cursing. He didn't expect the DEA to pay for a first-class ticket, but were they joking? How did the travel office expect him to squeeze into a center seat of a cheapo flight like this one? There was still an outside chance he could flash his badge, smile at the flight attendant, and get an upgrade. God knew the ploy hadn't worked at the gate, where he'd had to make his pitch to a straight male employee, which never got him anywhere. In the meantime, he would have to suck it up.
"Excuse me, ma'am." Dante mustered all the politeness he had. "This would be my seat."
The older woman took one look at his size and rolled her eyes in annoyance. She snatched her purse from the center cushion, crossed her arms tightly, and pressed herself against the window, as if shielding herself from his presence.
"No worries, ma'am. The Ebola's run its course." Dante jammed his body into the narrow space allotted him and smiled at his seatmate. "I think."
A female voice came through the intercom. "Ladies and gentlemen, this is a very full flight. We ask that you stow your items and take your seats as promptly as possible. We'll be off as soon as our last passenger is aboard."
A collective sigh of exasperation rose through the plane.
"Also, we've received word of rough weather in the Carolinas, and the captain has informed us that we can expect some in-flight turbulence. We will be reminding you to keep your seat belts fastened for the duration of the flight. We appreciate your cooperation."
Dante's eyes flashed to the empty aisle seat to his right. He scanned the coach cabin. Shit. Of course this would be the only empty seat on the whole fucking plane and it belonged to the late-ass passenger, probably some sweaty dude running for his connecting flight. Maybe the guy would be a no-show and Dante could move over.
Suddenly, he felt a flash of dread.
He thought for sure he'd seen the flirty little chick in the pink sweater board ahead of him. But where was she now? Had she gotten out of line without him noticing? Another quick scan of his surroundings failed to locate the shiny head of strawberry-blond hair pulled back in a bun.
Then suddenly, there she was, coming down the aisle.
"Excuse me! Oh, goodness, I am so sorry! Truly, I do apologize for keepin' ya'll waiting! I was in the ladies'!"
She appeared as if summoned from his silent worst-case scenario. Not that Dante would prefer the company of a sweaty businessman over an exceptionally beautiful young woman, but it would take too much effort to keep his eyes off her. He didn't want effort. He just wanted to land and get home. Not that he considered his current assignment much of a home.
The woman's seductive scent arrived many seconds before she bumped into the armrest of the aisle seat and began struggling to lift her carry-on.
Dante unclasped his seat belt and prepared to help her, but suddenly froze. Maybe the whiff of perfume had just hit the sexual-alert bull's-eye buried deep in his lizard brain. Or maybe it was the creamy strip of bare, flat belly now shoved directly into his line of vision. Whatever it was, he couldn't move. He was momentarily helpless. He should be above this kind of nonsense. A delayed response like this could get a field agent killed, or get an undisciplined man in deep shit.
"Aren't you going to assist that nice young lady? Men have no sense of decency these days!"
His seatmate's reprimand snapped Dante out of his perfume-induced stupor, and made him ponder the concept of hell. Despite his years at Brooklyn's Bishop Ford Central Catholic, he'd never really believed in hell as a physical destination. Not as the Maryknoll fathers described it, anyway. But he had a feeling this flight back to Bum-Fuck, North Carolina, was about to make a believer out of him.
"Let me help you." By the time Dante had found his voice and managed to stand without cracking his head on the low overhang, four other men had surrounded Miss Pretty in Pink in a testosterone-fueled feeding frenzy to win her gratitude. Dante backed down and took his seat once more.
He felt the old woman's eyes boring into the side of his head.
He spun around and looked at her. No, he glared. He shouldn't have done that. Dante knew his glare was deadly. Hey, nobody had ever accused him of being a nice guy.
The sweet breeze of female fragrance tickled his nostrils again, but he decided right then and there that he'd keep his eyeballs either closed or in a magazine for the rest of the flight. He absolutely refused to look at either of these women.
Her voice was classic Southern belle, but softer than many he'd heard. There was something alluring about it, even. Dante did not look up.
"I can't help but see that you're a little crowded there in the middle. Would you like the aisle seat? You could probably stretch out your legs. I mean, I, well ... I don't need the legroom like you do. You're just ... um, you're so much ... bigger than me."
And just like that, he was hard. It had to be something about the words themselves, or maybe just the way she'd said them. Regardless, Dante was more certain than ever that he absolutely could not make eye contact with the country cutie. It was a matter of principle now. A matter of self-preservation. "That's very nice of you," he mumbled. "But —"
"Oh, for the love of God, take her up on her offer, would you?"
That was it. Fuck principle. He had to get away from this senior-citizen psycho.
"Fine. Sure. Thank you." He stood up so abruptly he smacked the top of his head into the overhead luggage bin. He winced in pain.
Miss Pinkie stood, too, and placed a hand on Dante's head, then stroked her soft fingers down the side of his face. "Oh, my goodness! Are you all right?"
"Please take your seats," the flight attendant said in a clipped voice. "Immediately."
Pinkie stepped out into the aisle, let Dante through, then slipped in front of him to the middle seat. Her ass brushed against the front of his pants. It was a firm ass. Almost as firm as the front of his pants.
They sat down simultaneously, and in their hurry, Pinkie dropped her handbag to the floor. Its contents spilled out.
"I've got it," Dante told her.
"Seat belts," the flight attendant snapped. "Right now, please."
What the hell? Had the travel office booked him on PMS Airways?
Dante began shoveling the contents back in the purse, taking note of the usual girl stuff. Lipstick, loose change, wallet, nail file, cell phone, hairbrush. Then his eyes spied a shiny object under the seat in front and snagged it before the snarky stewardess could say anything more. He sat up, gave Pinkie her purse, and buckled his seat belt.
The Southern belle gazed up at him with clear-blue beautifulness under dark blond lashes. It was the first time he'd studied her up close, and it was all he could do not to suck in his breath in astonishment. She had to be one of the prettiest women he'd ever seen. Hers was a delicate kind of beauty. She had dainty bone structure. Soft skin. But there was something in those eyes that said she might be soft and dainty, but she sure as hell wasn't fragile.
"Thankyousoverymuch," she breathed.
The airplane began to back out from the gate. "No problem." He blinked at her, finding himself dangerously close to freezing up again. Deep, deep shit ...
"May I have my bracelet?"
"What?" Dante realized he still clutched the shiny object in his palm. "Oh. Sure. Sorry."
It was one of those silver charm bracelets a lot of women seemed to wear. Among the charms that dangled from the circle of pink and silver beads was a heart-shaped locket, the word "Taffy" engraved on its face.
"So, you're Taffy." Dante did his best not to laugh, since, really, could there be a more perfect name for this chick? There she was, a sweet piece of pink saltwater taffy, the kind that got all silky in your mouth with a little effort. Dante decided he would unwrap her and find out just how silky-sweet she tasted.
"No, it is not my name, if you must know." She pursed her lips tight and shoved the bracelet into her purse without elaboration.
"No?" Dante smiled at her. "So you stole the bracelet from someone named Taffy?"
The woman stiffened. "No, I most certainly did not!"
Okay, so he might have crossed the line with that little joke. Not knowing what in God's name provoked him to do so, he glanced over at psycho senior, who'd obviously been eavesdropping. She shook her head and rolled her eyes at him again.
"Look, I'm sorry," he told pretty little whatever-her-name-was. "I was trying to be funny. It's not my strong suit."
The nasty old lady snorted.
"So, if I may ask, what is your name?"
His new acquaintance fluttered her thick eyelashes at him, considered his question for a moment, then unleashed a perfectly seductive smile. "All right. My name is Taffy. I rarely tell strange men my name, but I decided to make an exception for you."
Dante felt his eyebrows arch. This woman was good. Real good. So good that he guessed she made exceptions for men on a regular basis. "Well, I'm flattered, Taffy. And my name is Dan. Dan Carnes."
"Pleasure to meet you, Dan Carnes."
Never taking his eyes from hers, he reached for her hand and brought it to his lips. He held it there as the plane left the ground and angled up into the sky.
* * *
"May I have another vodka and cranberry when you have a chance? Thankyousoverymuch."
Tanyalee tipped her chin and gazed up at Dan. Oh, this man was so easy it was pathetic. Not that she wanted anything from him. Because she didn't. Her days of seducing men who had money or happened to be outrageously hot were over. Done. This Dan Carnes person surely wasn't rolling in cash or he'd be in first class or on his own private jet, for heaven's sake. And yes, he was stunningly attractive, but Tanyalee knew he would amount to nothing but good company on a three-hour flight. That was all. End of story.
Dan had ditched his suit jacket during her previous cocktail, and the muscles she now spied under that dress shirt were extraordinary. She'd never been to bed with a man built like Dan Carnes. She wondered what it would be like. Tanyalee couldn't help but stare at his chest and the tiny tuft of dark hair peeking out from his loosened tie. Goodness! What would a girl do with all those hairy muscles? Stroke them? Kiss them? Rub her face in them until her cheeks were exfoliated?
Tanyalee licked her lips, unable to drag her eyes from the contents of Dan's shirt.
"Your drink, ma'am."
"I'll get this one," Dan said, passing along Tanyalee's beverage and handing the flight attendant a ten.
"Oh, thankyousoverymuch! Aren't you sweet?"
"Can I get you anything, sir?"
"Another seltzer with lime, please," Dan told the flight attendant. He turned his attention to Tanyalee again. "So. You were saying ..."
She'd been saying something? That must have been before she started staring at Dan's muscles.
"Oh! Yes! I stole the love of my sister's life right out from under her, which was wrong, I know. And I married him, though it lasted only about six months. He couldn't really support me in the way I deserved."
Dan nodded slowly.
"I got myself in a little bit of trouble after that." Tanyalee leaned closer and whispered in his ear. "Legal trouble. A small misunderstanding with a loan my granddaddy couldn't remember cosigning for me. You know how forgetful old people can be."
"Of course," Dan said.
"And then there was that ridiculous security mix-up at the boutique where I love to shop. Well, I used to love to shop there. A few checks happened to bounce and I was somehow accused of accessing Granddaddy's online checking account, and since the police made such a fuss about it all, I ended up with a probation officer. He's cute as a button but the nervous type, you know? I think he's overworked."
Tanyalee smiled up at Dan. He surely was easy to talk to. "Next, I was engaged to a real estate investor who was stinking rich, you know what I'm saying?"
"But he found himself responsible for some of his dead daddy's shady business dealings and ... oh, goodness. Do you know what my fiancé did? You're not going to believe this!"
"I can't wait."
"That man went and shredded all my credit cards! Left a little bird's nest of plastic right there on the bathroom rug! My American Express. My MasterCard. My Sears card! Have you ever heard of such a thing?" She took a sip from her slender cocktail straw.
"You've sure led an interesting life, Taffy."
Tanyalee waved her hand in the air and giggled. "Oh, that's only half of it."
Excerpted from Stealing Taffy by Susan Donovan. Copyright © 2016 Susan Donovan. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I laughed out loud I highly recommend any of Susan books this so much to read definitely a keeper
Tanyalee has spent 10 weeks in an Arizona rehab center. She's decided after rehab to turn over a new leaf in her life. That is until her flight home gets changed due to bad weather. She winds up sharing not only an airplane but a hotel room with a hot Northerner. Seriously!? Dante is a DEA agent and is on the plane and wound up sleeping with Tanyalee, a southern girl, after bad weather diverted his plane! She left him a souvenir of a silver charm bracelet with the word "Taffy" on it? He heads back to North Carolina after his little "encounter" in DC and of course, who is there but Tanyalee! And that folks, is where our story takes off!! I love east coast stories! This was a great suspenseful, hot story! Loved the setting and the characters!! Thanks to St. Martin's Press via NetGalley for a copy of this book!
It's been quite a while since Susan Donovan has taken us to Bigler, NC but she does so in this book in spectacular fashion! The always self centered manipulating Tanyalee Newberry us fresh out of rehab where she finally had to admit to her issues. She's trying for a fresh start though and nothing can keep her from achieving her goals. When bad weather has her flight rerouted and leaves her stranded, she decides she can start her whole new life tomorrow, after an incredibly passionate night with a stranger. Dante Cabrera can't believe it when he wakes up alone. The incredible woman he had just spent the night with had sneaked out in the middle of the night never to be seen again. That is until they both turn up in Bigler! This is a fun, zany read that will have you laughing out loud. I definitely recommend it.
Laughter, lust and love made this a wonderful book for me to read today! I was laughing before the end of the first chapter and though there were amends to be made by Taffy before she could find her happily ever after it was just the book to make my afternoon relaxing and fun. Tanyalee Marie “Taffy” Newberry was new to me as a character and one I was charmed by. I loved the way she and Dante Cabrera met while traveling and acted upon their mutual interest never thinking they would see one another again. It may not have been the best thing for Taffy to be doing just out of her stint in rehab but then again, perhaps it was. Some might find this a silly book but I found it filled with joy and possibilities and the idea that no matter how bad your life may have been or how badly you have treated others there is the potential for more and better in the future – if you are willing to do what it takes to make it happen. I have not read other books by this author but did enjoy this one and hope to read more of her work in the future. Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for the copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.