The Man I Want to Be

The Man I Want to Be

by Christina Elle

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781640634664
Publisher: Entangled Publishing, LLC
Publication date: 02/26/2018
Series: Under Covers , #3
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 313
Sales rank: 155,511
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Christina believes that laughter really is the best medicine, which is why in her writing she adds a healthy dose of hilarious hijinks with gritty suspense. She lives near Baltimore with her husband and two sons, who give her an endless supply of humorous material to write about.

When she’s not writing fun contemporary romance or quirky romantic suspense, Christina can be found devouring books in every genre, watching Chris Hemsworth on TV, playing board games with her family, working out, watching Chris Hemsworth on TV, napping, baking, watching Chris Hemsworth on TV, and shopping...for Chris Hemsworth’s latest DVD.

She is a member of Romance Writers of America and Maryland Romance Writers.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

Weddings sucked.

Okay, maybe they didn't suck so much as they blew.

No. They didn't do that, either.

All right, fine, weddings were okay. What wasn't okay was being stuck on a secluded island, at a ritzy, exclusive resort with no escape, surrounded by people with nothing but "love," "happily ever after," and "forever" on their minds.

Bryan Tyke stood in his untied black combat boots in the pristine, white sand, scowling at every passerby. He'd be goddamned if he was going to walk around in flip-flops like everyone else and burn the shit out of his feet. Fuck that. It was enough that he was here. He wasn't going to act happy about it or dress the part.

His best friends and DEA teammates, Ash Cooper and Luke Calder, were getting married this week. Not to each other. To women. Women that had bamboozled the men into thinking married bliss actually was a thing. Big whoop for them if they wanted to buy into that idea. Tyke didn't. Forever wasn't in the cards for him. Not now. Not ever. He'd been close to marrying once, and well ... he didn't think about that anymore.

Back to the island wedding. Instead of going to the courthouse or eloping to Vegas like normal people, his friends insisted on dragging their guests thousands of miles for a fun-filled week of games, dinners, and carefully rehearsed nuptials.

Joy.

Tyke sipped his Mexican beer from the all-inclusive bar — the only thing making this whole experience tolerable — watching one of the resort staffers coordinate a badminton competition for the wedding guests.

Tyke turned to his most practical (and last remaining single) DEA teammate, Jason Reese. "Explain to me why we aren't Jet Skiing right now."

Reese sipped from his cup of orange liquid topped with a green umbrella, looking at ease in his bright Hawaiian shirt and salmon-colored shorts. "Because Ash said we had to be here or else he would cut off our balls and shove them down our throats."

Tyke winced at the memory. "Ah, right."

"I'm very fond of my balls." Reese turned his attention to the sandbox filled with badminton nets. "Plus, I actually think the competition will be enjoyable."

"Of course you would," Tyke said. "You love this kind of shit."

Jason pressed his sunglasses, which sat on top of his actual glasses, farther up the bridge of his nose, then shrugged.

"Man." Tyke took a better look at his friend. "Why the fuck are you wearing two pairs of glasses? You look like a ninety-year-old woman with cataracts."

Reese touched his face as if he'd forgotten about the items he'd just adjusted. "My prescription sunglasses broke before we left. So ..." He shrugged again. "Does it really look that bad?"

The flicker of nerves on Reese's face was a first. The team often joked that Reese was more robot than human because he rarely showed emotion, was always calm under pressure, and could calculate anything in his head in milliseconds. The vulnerability made Tyke pull back.

"Who gives a shit what you look like?" he said. "Who are you trying to impress? Have you taken a look around?" Tyke did a wide sweep of the beach area. "Everyone's either from the nursing home or already married with ten kids."

Reese wasn't listening, instead his gaze was fixed on a cute blonde about twenty yards away, laughing with her just-as-cute brunette friend. Sorority sisters of one of the brides, if he remembered correctly. Tiffany and Hillary. Candy and Tandy. Or some shit.

The blonde was wearing a slim-fitting white sleeveless shirt that showed off her full rack and short hot-pink bottoms that drew attention to her long, tanned legs. Tyke couldn't fault Reese for admiring her.

She just wasn't tempting enough for Tyke.

He was more of a redhead with curves in all the right places kind of guy. Or at least he had been once upon a time.

Guilt spiraled its way down his throat, taking residency in the pit of his stomach. But like he'd done so many times before when the inkling of his past inched back, he pushed it aside the best way he knew how. With alcohol. Tyke downed another long swig of beer, closing his eyes and relishing the cold liquid coating his insides like a balm. It cooled him off for a second before the hot Mexican sun pelted down, and he started sweating again.

Shake it off. After a quick exhale, he opened his eyes and glanced across the sand at ten squares serving as playing fields. Nets were dug into the middle of each square. Everyone of eligible playing age stood around the perimeter, waiting to be placed into pairs.

More icebreaker bullshit. Why couldn't he just partner up with Reese and get this over with? No, he had to mingle and converse with people he didn't know. This was Samantha Harper's idea. He normally loved the woman. She was Ash's fiancée and was like a sister to Tyke. But not when she came up with shit like this to torture him.

The resort worker walked around with a bowl that held cards inside. There were matching pairs of every color and number. Guests had to pull a card and then find the person who had the match. That was your partner. Tyke held a blue number two. So far, no one had shouted his number.

"Red number six," the cute blonde Reese was eyeing up said. "Who has red number six?"

Reese's head kicked back, and he drained the remaining orange liquid in his cup. He pulled the umbrella out of his drink and slid it over his ear like a freaking cha-cha dancer. "That's me. See you on the sand." Reese gave him a wide, excited smile before meeting his partner in the center of the circle.

Bryan lifted his dark bottle in salute to his friend's retreating back. "Good luck with that one. You're gonna need it." The woman didn't look like she had an ounce of athleticism in her body. Cheerleading, maybe. And being able to kick your foot up over your head only helped in certain situations. Badminton wasn't one of 'em.

Tyke scanned the group, sizing the wedding guests up. He hated meeting new people. But he hated losing more, so he needed a stellar partner. No uncoordinated, flailing-arms-of-a-prepubescent-teenager garbage. He wanted a real player. Someone who could keep up and play like a man. Another guy on the other side of the sand stood about Tyke's height but not as wide. The guy reached into the bowl and pulled his card out.

Blue two.

Blue two.

Say blue two, you lanky son of a bitch.

"Blue," the guy shouted, glancing down at the card. "Number four."

Motherfucker.

Tyke downed the rest of his beer in one gulp. He waved an arm to catch the attention of a passing waiter.

The waiter approached, wearing a white short-sleeved shirt and matching shorts, socks and tennis shoes. "Another, sir?"

"You know what?" Bryan said. "Bring me two. What the hell. I'm celebrating my best friends never owning their dicks again."

The waiter did a double take and tried to laugh. When Tyke didn't reciprocate, the guy's eyebrows furrowed.

"Does anybody have blue number two?" an impatient voice shouted.

That was his card. Shit. Tyke put his empty bottle on the waiter's tray.

"That's me." He pulled out his wallet and handed a ten to the waiter. "Just bring the beers to whatever shit-box area I'm assigned to."

"Blue number two?" a female voice said behind him. A few soft taps from a pointy finger landed on his back, below his right shoulder.

He turned.

She was shorter than average height for a woman, but then again, everyone looked short next to him. She had fiery, bright-red hair pulled into a messy ponytail on top of her head. Her pale-blue eyes were warm and welcoming, even smiling.

Then she met his gaze, and something registered in her brain because her blue eyes went icy.

It took him a few seconds longer ...

Short height.

Red hair.

Pale-blue eyes.

Oh, fuck.

Kenna McCord.

"What the hell are you doing here?" he asked.

No. No. No. This was all wrong. Usually when Kenna came to him, it was at night — while he was in bed — after staring at the clock for hours, hard as steel and unfulfilled, praying for sleep. Jesus, had his visions gotten so bad that now she was haunting him during the day, too? That thought, mixed with the guilt still gurgling in his belly, made him rethink his drink of choice. He should probably switch to water.

He stared without blinking at the apparition in front of him. She wasn't smiling like she usually did in his nightmares. Instead, the woman's originally delighted features transformed. Her face caved in, her pink glossy lips puckered, and auburn eyebrows gathered at the center of her forehead.

She lifted her foot — why the hell was she picking that up? — and she swung it with more force than a woman her size should've possessed. It connected with his shin, just above where his boots ended.

"Damn it," he grunted, bending to grab his throbbing leg. When he did, she took full advantage. She reared back and punched him in the chin. Hard. Exactly like he'd taught her when they were kids. Pain exploded in his brain as his head whipped to the side. He scrambled forward to grab her, but she took off in huff.

The pain in his leg and face didn't relent. Which could only mean one thing — Kenna wasn't a vision. She was here. After twelve years, she was back and there was no escape from his past and what he'd done to her.

* * *

Kenna McCord shuffled as fast as she could across the hot sand, cursing herself for not taking her trainer up on the extra sessions he'd offered. Cardio was not her friend, and it was never more evident than right now as she struggled for air after only a handful of rushed steps. How did Pamela Anderson make running across the sand look so effortless? She hadn't, Kenna decided. Pamela Anderson was full of shit.

She swiped the back of her hand over her clammy forehead, pulling with it a few annoying little hairs that were falling into her eyes.

He was here. Bryan. Or as she called him: Bear. Her long ago love and once fiancé. She'd practically been a child then. That time in her life seemed a million years ago. But his betrayal certainly felt fresh based on the way her body simmered with renewed anger.

Out of all the beaches in the world, why did he have to be on this one?

She made it to the edge of the badminton playing area before a strong hand gripped her arm and jerked her to a stop. She gasped and tried to pull against the restraint, but she knew from experience it was futile. The man attached to the hand was not only stubborn, but he was stronger than a raging bull.

She whirled around to face him, casting her anger out like a force field. "What?"

"Fuck." He drew back. "It's really you."

"Of course it's me," she said, crossing her arms.

He looked different now. He'd been a clean-cut, twenty-one-year-old when she'd last seen him. He was still tall as an oak tree and wide as a barn. But his hair was long, secured at the base of his skull with a rubber band. He had a full beard that made him appear gruffer. His broad, muscular chest and defined biceps that were noticeable even with a shirt on were also new. As she looked at him now, he most definitely personified his childhood nickname of Bear.

He narrowed his eyes like he still didn't believe it. "What are you doing here?"

"I belong here. What are you doing here?" She jabbed a finger into his solid chest, trying to impale him, but immediately regretted the motion when a stroke of pain shot up her hand. Damn, his chest was even firmer than she remembered.

His jaw tightened. "That's impossible. You don't know anyone. You don't have any family."

Okay, that struck a nerve. He was right. She didn't have immediate family to speak of. Only Aunt Estelle. But that was no reason to hold it against her and act like she was some sorry loser.

Asshole.

She hauled her fist back again, but before she could connect a second time with his arrogant face, he caught it in his big palm. Kenna pulled her hand back and thrust it on her popped-out hip.

His bushy eyebrows crunched together. "What the fuck was that for? Stop punching me."

"I'm such a loser," she said. "That it? I don't have any friends or family so there's no way anyone would want to invite me to a beautiful beach like this?"

"What? No. That's not what I meant. It's just — I'm surprised. I didn't expect you to be here. After ..." He swallowed and ran a hand over his crown of shoulder-length, dirty-blond hair. "You know, after everything that happened. I just figured you'd want to stay as far away from me as possible."

"I do, believe me." Kenna relished in his hurt expression. Oh, how she wanted to give him a piece of her mind. She'd practiced for weeks what she'd say to him when he finally returned home. She was geared up and ready to blast him with everything she had.

I trusted you. Gave you my whole heart, every tiny shred, and you ripped it out without a second glance. You made me love you. Live for you. Want to marry you, and then you walked away and never came back. Twelve years you kept me waiting ... and like an idiot, I did. I loved you even when everyone in our small town told me it was a lost cause. That you'd forgotten me. Us.

I never gave up hope.

Until finally one day she'd woken up and decided she didn't want to live in misery anymore. The only solution she'd come up with was to never place her trust in another person and allow them the power to crush her like Bear had done. So she'd hardened herself. She'd moved on, ignoring the incessant slice of emptiness of never knowing what she'd said or done to keep him away.

"I'm going to ask this one more time," he said, dragging her back to the present. "What are you doing here?"

Her chin shot backward. "Excuse me? Like you have a right to order me around?" She slapped her palms against his hard chest and tried to give him a firm shove. She'd never been able to do it in the past, so she didn't know what made her think she could move him now. Frustrating man. "What are you doing here?"

His hands closed around her wrists like steel bands, holding her palms against him. He stepped forward, pressing his body to hers. Bold, she'd give him that. He was well within range where she could get a knee into an important part of his anatomy.

He must have seen the deadly gleam in her eyes and remembered that her stubbornness rivaled his, because he released her.

He sighed, stepping back. "Ash and Luke are my best friends. I'm here for them."

"Friends from the Army?"

"No. We're in the DEA together."

"DEA?" she nearly shrieked. "So you're not in the Army anymore? When did you get out?" She couldn't explain her surprise. It had been more than a decade after all. He could've done anything in that time. But her last real memory had been sending him off to basic training. He'd made it clear he was going to make a career out of the military. It's all he'd wanted to do.

I'll be back, Kenna, he'd told her. I'll come back for you, and we'll build a life together. No matter where the Army sends me, we'll be together.

"I left the Army years ago," he said with a confused expression.

He was just full of leaving, wasn't he?

"Why? I thought you —"

"I just did, okay?" he snapped. "It doesn't matter why."

Obviously a sore subject but fine. It wasn't her concern anymore.

She shifted her weight and placed a hand on her forehead. "So does this mean you're not only here to attend the wedding, but that you're in the wedding, too?"

He eyed her with an unreadable expression. "That's right."

She huffed a laugh. "Great."

"Why?"

"Do you remember me telling you about the summers I spent with my great-aunt in Baltimore?"

He nodded, his eyes blank for a second before morphing into recognition. "Ah, shit. Which one?"

"Which one what?"

"The grannies. Which one is your aunt? Maybel? Rose?"

"Estelle."

Bear barked out a laugh. "The batshit one. Of course." He shook his head in disbelief. "Un-fucking-believable. So that's your connection? You're here as what? Estelle's date?"

"No. I'm here for Sammie." She'd spent summers as a young girl, staying with Great-Aunt Estelle. She looked forward to it every year because it gave her a chance to see Samantha Harper, her childhood best friend.

As if summoned, Sammie sprinted in their direction, distraught expression in place. Trailing was her fiancé, Ash Cooper.

Sam stopped in front of them, sucking in air like it was going out of style. Sam's long blond hair was pulled into a high ponytail, and she wore an adorable white tank top and white tennis skort ensemble that showed off her athletic build.

(Continues…)



Excerpted from "The Man I Want To Be"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Christina Elle.
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.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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The Man I Want to Be 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
DaneWeimMama More than 1 year ago
Loved Loved Loved The Man I Want to Be. This whole series has been so fun to read & this book might have been my favorite to read yet. I thought the relationship between Bryan & Kenna was unique, sweet, & very sexy. The books can be read as a stand alone. I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader Copy of this book.
ReadYourWrites More than 1 year ago
The Man I Want to Be was not the book I wanted from Christina Elle. Christina writes these amazing visual and authentic action scenes that really put you into the middle of everything. I wanted that! What I got was a second chance romance with a little sleuthing on the side. And a hero whose story broke my heart. The night before Bryan Tyke deployed overseas, he proposed to his high school sweetheart and longtime love Kenna McCord. Months later, he emails her a Dear Jane letter and doesn’t see or speak to her for twelve years. All that changes with the destination wedding of his bestfriends Ash and Luke. Unbeknownst to Bryan, Kenna is a bridesmaid and childhood friend of Sam, who’s set to marry Ash. While there is still unresolved feelings between the two, they agree to spend the week being civil and staying away from each other. Too bad Sam realizes that Bryan is “Bear”, the man who broke Kenna’s heart. She makes it a point to have them be paired off everytime there is a couple related event. Bryan and Kenna are further drawn together when Kenna realizes her mother’s sapphire ring has been stolen from her room. Knowing how important the ring is to Kenna, he promises to get it back before the wedding. Bryan had my heart from the beginning. From reading the previous books, I knew he was still hung up on someone. I just had no idea who or what happened with the relationship. As I mentioned, Christina Elle is extremely good at giving you very detailed visual scenes. Bryan’s flashback to his past and the secret he’s been carrying around broke my heart and had me reaching for tissues. Kenna was not one of my favorite people throughout this book. At times, my feelings for her ran hot and cold. I understand that she had every right to be mad and upset, but there was no reason for her to be mean and cruel. As far as being together, they really worked well as a couple. When they weren’t arguing. There’s a playfulness about them that’s fun to watch. In the bedroom, they are extremely compatible. There’s one more member of Ash’s DEA team left, Jason Reese. I’m hoping Christina will decide to take his story back to the action and true suspense found in the first two previous books. **Received a copy from Entangled Publishing and voluntarily reviewed.**
Lori-Gonzo More than 1 year ago
When I first started reading this book, I wasn't sure I would like it as much as the first one. There were some silly parts in the beginning, maybe a little over the top stuff for me from Kenna. But as I kept reading it, because it was entertaining and then I had to know how Tyke and Kenna would work it out, the story was better. I could totally understand her anger and hostility towards him as well as his guilt. And their love for each other was obvious, so you definitely root for them as a couple. You could feel her heartbreak and utter betrayal that she felt when he finally admitted everything to her - that broke my heart for both of them. But if you keep reading, you are rewarded with a very happy ending with an unexpected twist that was actually very well played. I received this book in exchange for an honest review from the publisher through Netgalley.
rc1836 More than 1 year ago
Interesting second chance at love mystery Christina Elle did a good job with this the third book in the Inder Covers series. Kenna and Bryan (Bear) a once engaged couple were portrayed very realistically. The reader gets a really good window into how they are thinking and feeling. I think the secondary characters added additional dimension to the story and the mystery kept my interest. I received an advance reader copy from Netgalley.
Bette313 More than 1 year ago
**3.5 stars** This one is tough for me to rate and review. I liked the story although I wasn't always a fan of the female lead character Kenna. The writing is strong and the characters, love them or hate them, are well developed. I didn't always feel the chemistry between Kenna and Bryan though. Considering their history I would think their interactions would be more explosive. Through most of the book I thought the suspense element was a little weak but the ending cleared that up for me so don't give up on the story too soon. It's fun and worth the wait. Overall I would recommend this one.
Linda__ More than 1 year ago
LOVED this book! This novel has it all - a compelling story, characters I cared about, poignant moments, and moments that made me laugh so hard I cried. I cannot even begin to describe how much I enjoyed this novel. If I could give it more than five stars, I would. Also, every time I think of Spike I will smile. This is a mus read for fans of the genre. This one not only belongs on your TBR, it is worthy of being pre-ordered. The author is on my must read authors' list.