What’s a girl to do when the man she’s loved her entire life thinks of her as a little sister? Worse, her own big sister was the one who broke his heart years earlier. For Ivy Grayson, the chance to get him to see her in a different light comes when she receives an unexpected invitation to move into his luxury New York apartment building. Manhattan also just happens to be the perfect place to pursue her wish to become a successful artist. But how many dreams can one woman expect to come true?
Billionaire financier James Jordon has everything a man could want—except love. When Ivy’s family asks him to keep an eye on their “little girl” in the big city, he agrees. But the innocent girl he knew is now a dynamic woman who knows what she wants, and how to get it. He may have promised himself to keep things platonic, but ignoring the game of love isn’t an option. Especially when Ivy is so eager to play.
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
“James. How are you, sweetheart?”
James heard the clear, rounded tones of Laura Grayson’s voice over the speakerphone on his desk. He never minded receiving a call or a visit from her, despite his ill-fated engagement to her eldest daughter, Madelyn, more than five years before.
Lord knows Laura and Philip Grayson had been better parents to him over the years than his own—who, at last report, were sunning themselves somewhere on the coast of southern France. No doubt they were spending more money in a week than most people earned in a year. His mother in particular had no idea there was such a thing as a budget.
“I’m fine, Laura,” he said, signing his name to a thick set of documents. “And you? All’s well, I trust?” He tossed down his pen and handed the paperwork to his executive assistant. She hurried away.
“Quite well,” Laura answered. “Is that work I hear you doing? I hope I’m not calling at a bad time.”
“Not at all.” He lifted the receiver to make their conversation private. “Just finishing up.”
“Well, we’re all too busy these days. I’m due to zip out of here any moment myself—evening rehearsal for the Caldicott wedding. Then there’s the Jay affair on Friday. I have so much on my to-do list, it’s a wonder I can keep my head on straight now that spring has sprung.”
“Glad to hear your business is booming.”
“The wedding consultation business is always booming, even though the divorce rate’s high. But I didn’t call just to chitchat. I have a favor to ask; Philip and I both do.” Her voice lowered. “It’s about Ivy.”
“What about Ivy? Problem at school?”
“You might call it that. She’s decided to drop out.”
He straightened in his chair. “What?”
“Yes. Despite all our efforts to convince her otherwise, she’s dead set on withdrawing from college and moving to the city to be an artist. She’s always been such an easygoing, levelheaded girl. I don’t know where this defiant streak has suddenly come from.”
“Would you like me to talk to her, then? Get her to reconsider? She only has one more year before she graduates, doesn’t she?”
Laura sighed. “Yes, and if I truly thought your talking to her would do any good, I’d have her on the phone right now. But she’s like a piece of granite, as fixed on this as I’ve ever seen her fixed on anything. Besides, it’s already too late. She’s officially withdrawn. The college has given her spot away for next year.”
“I’m sure something could be arranged,” he said.
In addition to the many charitable organizations he contributed to each year, he made sizable donations to a number of colleges and universities. If enough money was at stake, he felt certain Vassar would be more than pleased to make an exception for Ivy. No matter how impossible such a request might seem on the surface.
“No. It’s useless,” Laura said. “She won’t go back. And to be completely honest, her father and I have no real objection to her pursuing her painting, if that’s what she really wants. What we do object to is her living arrangements.
“James,” Laura went on in horrified tones, “she’s planning to move into some horrible artist’s garret in Bushwick. I’m sure it has cockroaches and rats and God knows what else. I can’t bear to think of my darling girl living in some dingy, run-down old hovel.”
He frowned. “Well, it’s not the best part of Brooklyn, but from what I’ve heard, it’s undergoing a rapid transformation. Maybe it’s not as bad as you think.”
“No, it’s worse. She’s going to be sharing the hovel with three men.”
“Yes, some friend of hers from college—an actor who’s moving to the city this year and two friends of his. One’s a musician, and I can’t remember what the other one does. Dancing, I think. Anyway, she simply cannot be allowed to do this.” Laura audibly slowed to catch her breath. “That’s where the favor comes in. James, are there any available apartments in your building? Anyone who might consider subletting one?”
He frowned. “Doubtful. People tend to stay put once they move into my building.”
“Ivy’s father and I will pay whatever it costs if you could just find something, anything. We’d both feel so much better knowing she was near a person we trust. Someone to watch over her and make sure she doesn’t come to any harm. I know she’d be safe with you around.” She paused. “We considered Madelyn and Zack, but since they bought the house on Long Island last year . . . Well, it would be such an imposition, what with the twins and all. And I don’t think Ivy would ever agree to it.”
He tensed at mention of Madelyn, a reflex he couldn’t seem to shake even after all this time. “But you think Ivy would be willing to move into my building?” he ventured. “You don’t think she’ll feel she’s not suffering enough for her art on the Upper West Side?”
“She should be grateful not to suffer at all. Her father and I will make her see reason, at least on this. Now, tell me you think there’s hope and that you’ll help us.”
“Of course I’ll help, if I can. Let me look into things and I’ll call you tomorrow. Okay?”
“Thank you, dear. We love you, you know.”
“I love you too,” he responded, and hung up the phone.
So Ivy was turning stubborn, was she? Displaying that famous streak of Grayson obstinacy at last.
Ivy. Lord, he hadn’t seen her for . . . well, nearly two years now, he realized. Except for holidays, she’d been away at college while he’d been busy making deals and dollars in the world of international finance.
Fortunately, he thrived on the business, savoring the risk, relishing the challenge of juggling vast sums and gambling on ventures that often had as much chance of going bust as they did boom. And he’d done well for himself, and for the family, as the head of Jordan Enterprises. Since his father had handed over the company reins with a stiff handshake and a grateful sigh nearly twelve years ago, James had more than tripled their holdings.
Lately, though, he’d begun to wonder if that’s all there was to his life—work and profit. He had so much, and he was thankful for it. He tried never to take his life of privilege for granted. Yet sometimes when he awakened in the darkest black of night, an emptiness would sweep through him. A void none of the luxuries he possessed could ever fill.
A home. A family of his own. Children.
If he’d married Madelyn, they’d have those things now. . . .
But no, he refused to dwell on her. He was over Madelyn. She was in his past. He needed to focus on his future. As he knew all too well, she’d built a life for herself, found a happiness separate from him.
If only he could find a way to do the same.
The intercom buzzed. He pressed a button. “Yes?”
“Mr. Jordan, Ms. Manning is here to see you. Shall I send her in?”
“Of course. Show her right through. Then why don’t you go on home, Tory?” he said to his assistant. “It’s getting late. You can finish up that report tomorrow.”
“Thanks. Andrew’s got soccer practice tonight, and Bill’s taking Cara to ballet. If I leave now, we can have a quick bite together before we have to run.”
“Go be with your family. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Moments later, the door to his office opened as Parker Manning let herself in. She made a dramatic entrance in a minidress that hugged each and every one of her lean, feminine curves. The color, a bold slash of red, accented her sleek dark hair and olive complexion. A pair of three-inch red heels, a narrow yellow wrap, and a trendy purse shaped like a lemon slice completed the ensemble.
He and Parker had been lovers now for the better part of a year. They’d met at a play, introduced by mutual acquaintances who shared an appreciation for live theater. Divorced with no children, Parker lived off a trust fund from a wealthy grandmother and dabbled in whatever amused her at any given moment.
Right now, it was real estate.
He rose from his chair and went to greet her, taking her into his arms for a warm kiss on the mouth. “I didn’t expect you tonight.”
“I decided to surprise you. I’m celebrating.” She showed him a set of well-straightened teeth. “I sold my white elephant today.”
He raised a brow. “The loft in Tribeca?”
“The very one. I’d about given up hope of ever unloading the thing, but the ideal buyer came along. A computer entrepreneur from California who didn’t bat an eyelash at the price. Just asked me where he could sign. I’ve been in heaven all day. With the commission I’ll be receiving, I decided I deserved a well-earned treat. New outfit, new hair, a complete facial and massage. I feel positively yummy. I thought you could take me out to dinner and make the evening perfect.”
He held back a sigh. He’d been looking forward to a quiet evening at home, a good book and a full night’s sleep. But she’d be disappointed if he said no. He feigned a smile. “Of course we’ll go out. And congratulations. I know how hard you worked selling that property.”
“I did, didn’t I?” she agreed as if the notion amazed even her. “You haven’t mentioned my new look.” She held her arms out at her sides and turned a slow circle. “What do you think?”
He perused her from head to toe, ending by meeting the expectant look in her wide brown eyes. “Stunning as always. But then you know you don’t need a makeover to look gorgeous. You always are.”
She smiled at the compliment.
He closed the distance between them and slid a hand down the taut flesh of one arm. “Perhaps we should forget dinner, go to my place, and celebrate in bed.”
“Aren’t you the naughty one?” She laughed and gave him a playful tap on the shoulder. “But save the thought. We’ll skip dessert and enjoy each other later instead.” She moved away, heels silent on the Aubusson rugs spread over the dark, wide-plank walnut flooring. She stopped in front of a wet bar concealed behind a clever faux niche and pushed the panel to open it. “Drink?” she asked him.
“No, thanks.” He moved in the opposite direction, stopping before the floor-to-ceiling span of glass that formed the outside wall. Beyond it lay an unimpeded view of the city. Twilight was upon them, lights beginning to wink on in the buildings opposite, creating all sorts of interesting patterns and designs.
“I don’t know how you can stand being so close like that,” she remarked. “Gives me the willies wondering if I’ll fall out.”
His lips curved but without humor. He lifted a hand, rapped his knuckles on the thick glass. “Safe enough, I think.”
“Anything wrong? You seem pensive.” Ice clinked in her crystal glass as she took a swallow of vodka and tonic.
“A little tired, nothing more. Long, busy day.”
“Then a good dinner is exactly what you need. We should go.”
“Anywhere in particular you had in mind?”
He stifled a groan when she named a trendy, hideously expensive restaurant that was always booked solid months in advance. If he twisted an arm or two and greased the right palms, he might be able to find them a table for the last seating.
“All right. Let me make some calls.”
* * *
A grunt, followed by a curse, drew Ivy’s attention away from the kitchen linens she was unpacking. She watched as her friend Neil Jones muscled a huge packing box through the doorway of her new apartment.
“I think this is the last of them,” he huffed. He struggled a few more feet, then let the box slide to the floor. “I lost Josh somewhere behind me,” he panted, beads of sweat dotting his tanned forehead, dampening his short, sun-streaked brown hair.
She set her hands on her hips. “I wish you guys would have let me help.”
“You helped. You lugged up your clothes and a few of the lighter boxes. Believe me, cupcake, you wouldn’t have been able to manage these last few.”
She wasn’t entirely sure about that—she was pretty strong for a woman—but male pride could be a delicate thing, so she didn’t argue. It’s why she hadn’t hired professional movers. Neil and his friend Josh had offered to help her move, and she hadn’t wanted to offend by refusing. Neil in particular took affront at paying anyone a thousand dollars for a few hours’ work.
“How come you’ve got so much stuff?”
“It’s from my mother,” she said. “She wants me to be comfortable.”
He snorted. “I don’t see how you could you be anything but comfortable in a swanky place like this.”
He was right. A twinge of embarrassment went through her as she surveyed the space. The ocean of plush cream wall-to-wall carpeting, the gleaming cherry woodwork and cabinetry, the crown molding coated with fresh glossy white paint, and the wide windows with their elegant view of Central Park. In addition to the living room, the apartment boasted a spacious bedroom, full kitchen, fireplace, one and a half baths, and a bonus room she planned to use as her art studio.
Perhaps she should have stuck to her principles and refused to give in to her parents’ wishes. She’d been all set to share Neil, Josh, and Fred’s modest apartment in Bushwick. She might have grown up in wealth, but she wasn’t a pantywaist or a snob.
Then her folks had to go and tempt her.
Oh, not with the obvious lures—a luxury apartment in Manhattan, the chance to paint full-time and not worry about finding a job, the free rent. No, they’d reeled her in with a far more insidious temptation. Though to be fair, she knew they had no idea that’s what they were doing. They’d persuaded her with the most compelling enticement of all—the chance to live only seven floors down from James Jordan, the man she’d loved as long as she could remember.
At least she thought she still loved him.
She’d scarcely seen him these past few years, his long-ago breakup with her sister having driven an awkward wedge between him and her family. Still, they’d traded presents and postcards and phone calls during that time. And he’d never really been more than a glimpse away, his handsome, patrician features smiling dependably out at her from the photograph of him she kept on her nightstand.
Her nerves hummed at the thought of him.
What would it be like, seeing him again?
How would she feel?
How would he feel?
Would she want him with the same intensity? The same desperate yearning that had consumed her for nearly the whole of her life? Or would time and distance and newfound maturity have altered her perceptions, her emotions?
Would she meet him again and be chagrined to discover her devotion was nothing more than an illusion? A faded crush? Or would she see him and experience once more the old breathless thrill? Know, as she always had, that he was the one for her?
Moving to New York was her chance to find out. Her opportunity to explore her emotions and to act upon them if she found her feelings unchanged.
“What in the hell’ve you been doing, man?”
Neil’s question ended her reverie. Josh Moran was shouldering his way through the front doorway, the muscles in his arms bulging from the weighty carton he carried. Tall and stocky, his auburn hair trailed in a neat ponytail halfway down his back. “Where’s this go, Ivy?”
She rushed over to check the top. Books was scrawled in black felt-tip marker across the cardboard. But what kind of books? she wondered. After three years of college, she’d collected a lot of them, from cheap paperbacks to fine-art first editions.
“Living room!” she decided.
As he headed in that direction, Neil followed close behind.
“So, where’d you disappear to, man?”
His burden unloaded, Josh dropped down onto the L-shaped navy blue sofa that dominated the space. “I didn’t disappear anywhere.”
“Then where’ve you been?” Neil persisted.
“I was thirsty. I stopped at the water fountain for a drink and missed the elevator.”
“It took you ten minutes to get a drink of water? You’ve been smoking again, haven’t you?”
Josh bristled. “No, I haven’t been smoking. I’ve got this damned patch on, haven’t I?” He yanked up the short sleeve of his shirt, flashed it at Neil. “You’re not supposed to smoke if you’re wearing the patch.”
“What’s that mint scent, then? Smells like breath spray.”
“It’s not breath spray,” Josh said in a hard voice. “Must be the Tic Tac you smell. The one you shoved up your butt alongside the stick you’ve already got in there.”
“Hey, guys,” Ivy said, stepping between the squabbling pair. “Take it easy. It’s been a long day and you’re both tired.”
“If you’ve been smoking again—,” Neil warned, shaking a finger.
Josh bared his teeth. “You’ll what?”
“Please, enough. I’m sure Josh only took a few extra minutes to catch his second wind. And, Neil, you probably smell the mouthwash I used last time I was in the bathroom. Don’t fight, guys, hmm?”
Neil retreated a step, stuck his hands into his jeans pockets, and ducked his head. “Sorry, Ivy.”
“Yeah, sorry,” Josh said. “Not smoking is making my fuse kind of short today.”
She waved aside the apologies, already accepted. “You guys must be hungry. I know I am. There’s a market a block over. How about I run over and bring back sandwich fixings?”
“Sounds great, but we can’t stay.” Neil checked his watch. “The rental truck has to be back by seven, and the Prince of Pop here has a late gig at the club tonight. Don’t mean to leave you in the lurch, cupcake, but we have to bounce. Will you be okay?”
Deflated but determined not to show it, Ivy pasted on a wide smile. “Of course I’ll be okay. The building couldn’t be more secure, the neighborhood’s great, and God knows I’ve got plenty to keep me busy.” She gestured toward the mass of packing boxes.
“You’re right about that, but it’s not what I mean. Will you be okay alone?”
She smiled, touched. “Yes, I’ll be fine. I have been by myself before, you know.”
“Yeah, but being alone and living alone are two different things. I’ll call you tomorrow, see how your first night went.”
“I’ll be waiting by the phone,” she promised with a grin. “Now, you two get going before I make you late.” She gave Neil a fierce hug, then Josh, who’d risen from the sofa to join them. “Thank you, thank you, both of you.”
“I’m still pissed you aren’t moving in with us,” Josh grumbled. “Don’t be a stranger. Drop by the club some night. I’ll make sure you get a front-row seat.”
“And we’ll have lunch,” Neil offered. “I’ll tell you all about the latest cattle call my manager sent me on. Little Shop of Horrorsville.”
The moment they were gone, a thick hush descended on the apartment. She’d never lived alone before. It was scary. . . . No, it was exciting. She would make it an adventure, she decided.
Forcing herself not to mope, she marched into the kitchen and keyed open a music app on her tablet. Humming along to a tune, she dug into a box and got to work.
* * *
“Good evening, sir.” The doorman held open the front door, looking resplendent in his black uniform. His steel gray hair and crisp British accent lent him even greater distinction.
“Good evening, Barton,” James said. “I hope you had a pleasant day.”
“Yes, very pleasant. Thank you for asking, sir.”
“Did Miss Grayson get moved in?”
Barton smiled. “Indeed, yes, she did. Some friends of hers helped with her belongings. She seems a delightful young woman, a very welcome addition to the building.”
James nodded. “Ivy’s a special girl.”
Once inside the elevator, James punched the button for the fifteenth floor instead of inserting his passkey and going directly to his penthouse. Since he owned the building and had made the arrangements for Ivy’s move, he knew exactly which apartment was hers.
It will be nice to see her again, he mused.
Two years ago Christmas, that’s how long it had been since he’d stood in the same room with Ivy. He’d accepted her parents’ long-standing invitation that year because her sister Madelyn, and Zack Douglas—the man she’d jilted him for and then married—had been absent from the family festivities. They’d been visiting Douglas’s sister for the holidays or some such.
Ivy had been there with a date, a thoroughly smitten college boy whose brown eyes had followed her every move, who’d wanted only to please her. Just as James had predicted, she’d outgrown her childish adoration of him, her anguished lovesick proposal to him all those years ago nothing but a faint memory.
The elevator came to a halt with a soft ding, and he stepped out. He walked briskly down the well-lit hallway. The walls were a crisp, light blue, the carpet a tidy gray. Her apartment was all the way down on the left—a cozy end unit.
Reggae music throbbed like an aching tooth, reaching his ears long before he neared her door, which was propped wide with a packing box. More boxes were stacked inside, piles of them ranged in every direction.
He peered inside, rapped his knuckles on the door. “Ivy?”
He moved inside, called again. “Ivy, are you here?”
He stopped and set his briefcase on the floor beside the living room sofa.
But there was no sign of her, only the beating rhythm that grew louder the farther into the apartment he went. He followed the noise, walking down a hallway and past a guest bath to the bedroom. He stopped in the doorway, his eyes widening at the sight that greeted him.
Snugged into a pair of tight plaid cotton shorts, a woman stood bent over a huge cardboard clothing wardrobe. The entire top half of her body was concealed beneath masses of hanger-hung clothes as she quite obviously searched for something on the bottom of the box.
Friend of Ivy’s?
A grin of pure male appreciation spread across his lips.
What a pair of legs. He whistled silently.
They were smooth and golden with a supple length that went up—all the way up. And her rear end, it was trim but softly curved, lush.
He tucked his suddenly itchy palms into his pockets and reminded himself to act like a gentleman. Still, gentleman or not, it didn’t mean he couldn’t enjoy the show.
He watched as her backside did a provocative dance, wiggling up and down, side to side, as she strained to reach whatever it was that eluded her.
He was trying to decide on the politest way to announce himself when she overbalanced, her legs and feet splaying wide.
A small screech echoed from inside the cardboard depths.
He rushed forward and grabbed her hips to keep her from toppling all the way in.
She screeched again, louder this time, then jerked and stiffened. Her bottom arched backward, pressing for a long, electrified moment smack-dab against his fly. He sucked in his breath as if he’d been seared by a live brand.
Fighting the urge to press even closer, he hauled her up and out of the wardrobe.
Dresses, shirts, and skirts exploded across the floor as her head popped free.
He let her go and stepped back.
“Who’s there?” She spun around, shoving aside the long blond hair covering her face.
“It’s okay,” he shouted over the music. “I’m just here to see—” And then he noticed her eyes, familiar and blue. “Ivy?”
She froze. “James?”
He didn’t respond.
“Where’d you come from?” she asked. “You scared the living bejesus out of me.”
He could say the same, but for different reasons, still trying to wrap his head around the fact that the mystery woman—whose spectacular ass had just been pressed against his crotch—was Ivy.
Little Ivy, whom he’d known since she was a baby.
He scowled. “Yeah, well, you shaved a good year off my life too. What in the hell did you think you were doing, standing on your head in that box?”
“Unpacking,” she said simply.
Suddenly her expression changed, delight illuminating her face. “James! You’re here.” She raced forward and threw her arms around him in a fierce hug.
Hesitantly, he put his arms around her and squeezed back.
After a moment, he gently pulled away.
He moved across the room. “You suppose you could turn that noise down?”
“What?” she called, giving her head a little shake.
“The music.” He motioned with a hand. “Turn. It. Down.”
She nodded in sudden understanding and moved to click off her sound system.
A refreshing wave of silence swept through the room.
“Don’t you like reggae music?” she asked.
He shook his head. “Not this far north of the Caribbean. Sounds a lot better on a beach with a tall rum punch in hand. Helps numb the misery.”
She grinned and met his eyes, blue against blue. “Your loss. Bob Marley and me—” She crossed a pair of fingers. “We’re tight, if ya know what I mean,mahn,” she said in a bad Jamaican accent.
“But hey,” she said, reverting to her normal voice, “what are you doing here? I thought you were out of town on business.”
“My meetings wrapped up early, so I flew back a day ahead,” he said. “And what do I find when I stop by to welcome you to your new place? Your door standing wide open, inviting anyone to stroll right on in. You ought to know better. What if I’d been a thief or a lunatic?”
This time she was the one who laughed. “Please. This is the last place I’d be in danger. The security here is as good as Fort Knox.”
“Actually, it’s better. It ought to be since my company is the one who financed the design of the army’s latest security-system upgrade. But you aren’t supposed to know anything about that, and I never mentioned it.”
She stared for a moment. “Of course not. I have no memory of anything you just said.”
“As for my leaving the door open,” she went on, “I needed to air things out. I painted the spare room, the one I’m going to use for my studio. It still smells of latex, even though I used the low-VOC kind.” She wrinkled her nose. “I opened a couple windows and the front door to get a cross breeze.”
“Airing paint fumes out of an artist’s studio? I’d think an artist would love the smell of paint.”
“The smell of oil paint for canvas, definitely, but not wall paint,” she defended. “Linseed oil’s like a fine wine; you never get tired of the bouquet. Latex is just stinky plastic. Plus, it’s healthier to air things out.”
James crossed his arms over his chest. “Well, whatever the reason, I want you to promise me that you won’t leave your door open again when you’re alone. Safe building or no safe building.”
She planted her fists on her hips. “And if I don’t?”
“I’ll tell your mother, of course,” he replied in a serious tone.
She made a face and stuck her tongue out at him.
For the first time since he’d walked into the room, he relaxed, recognizing his old Ivy.
Only she wasn’t, not anymore.
Looking at her now, it was impossible to ignore the physical differences from the last time he’d seen her. There was a newfound maturity in her heart-shaped face with its high cheekbones and angular chin, all her familiar youthful softness winnowed away into clean, refined lines. Her mouth was a full, womanly pink that beckoned with sweetness and something more, something mysterious. And in her deep-set blue eyes, a wisdom and determination he’d never glimpsed before.
Then there was her body.
A woman’s body, curved in all the right places despite the reedy length that lingered from childhood.
Six feet two himself, he liked tall women. They didn’t intimidate him the way he knew they could other men. Still, he wasn’t used to standing next to a woman who could turn her head and nearly look him in the eye. Particularly not when the female in question was his little friend Ivy Grayson.
Disturbing, that’s what it was. Not just her height but the whole dynamic package.
Disturbing and sobering and unwanted.
I bounced her on my knee, for God’s sake.
He’d played peekaboo and got-your-nose with her when she was a gurgling toddler. The thought of her sitting on his knee now . . .
He cleared his throat and glanced around at the stack of packing boxes. “Looks like you have your work cut out for you.”
“You got that right.” She shot him a hopeful look. “Wanna help?”
Her question caught him off guard. Professionals always did his packing and unpacking; he’d never had the need or inclination to bother with such mundane domestic chores. A quick phone call and he could have someone over here to help Ivy, but somehow he didn’t think she would care for the idea.
He had work to do tonight. Then again, he always had work to do, and Ivy looked so hopeful. Maybe helping her for a couple of hours wouldn’t be so bad.
“Sure,” he said. “If I’m allowed to have dinner first. Have you eaten?”
She shook her head. “I keep meaning to take a break and run out to get something, but I just keep working instead.”
“Then let me treat you to dinner. How about Per Se? I know them there, and they can usually squeeze me in even on a crowded night.”
She bent to pick up a few of the clothes scattered across the carpet, then crossed to hang them up in the walk-in closet. “That sounds wonderful, but would you mind terribly if I asked for a rain check? I’ve been on the run since five this morning and I’m pooped.” She plucked at her shorts and T-shirt. “Plus, I’d have to shower and change and fix my hair. I’d rather stay casual tonight. You understand, don’t you?”
He did understand, actually. There were many times he wished for just such an evening and the chance to stay casual.
“Okay,” he agreed. “Why don’t we order in something, then? How about Chinese or Italian? I know good places for both and they deliver.”
She tossed him a smile. “Now you’re talking. You call in our order; then I’ll point you toward a box to unpack while we wait for the food to arrive.”
James groaned in mock agony before pulling out his cell phone to dial.
* * *
After finishing off the last of her Szechuan beef in spicy ginger sauce, Ivy leaned back in her chair, replete and content.
She looked across the small table she and James had cleared earlier of packing paraphernalia and watched him finish his meal. His elegant fingers maneuvered the chopsticks with easy grace, his masculine jaw and the beautiful lines of his strong throat something her artist’s eye couldn’t help but admire.
Warmth settled low and spread through her belly, thighs, and in between—physical reactions that had nothing to do with the spiciness of her meal. Just watching him made her want. His simplest movements were dynamic, compelling, appealing.
When she’d first seen him—after she’d gotten over the initial shock—part of her had hoped the old feelings would be gone. The sensible side of her had wished she wouldn’t experience the rush of love for him that had consumed so many years of her life. That they would be friends and only friends.
But nothing had changed, at least not for her.
From the moment she’d touched him, she’d known—all the emotions, all the love, surging back like a turbulent sea rushing to shore. As she’d hugged him, pressing her body to his, she’d breathed him in, savoring the clean, male scent of his skin so uniquely his own.
And she’d clung, wanting never to let go again.
What People are Saying About This
Praise for Tracy Anne Warren and for The Last Man on Earth
“Few things are more fun than an enemies-to-lovers romance, and Warren delivers…”—The New York Times Book Review
“Tracy Anne Warren is brilliant!”—New York Times Bestselling Author Cathy Maxwell
“Zippy yet soulful…Deeply relatable characters and strong writing make this a good start to a connected series.”—Publishers Weekly
“Exceptionally entertaining...luxuriously sensual.”—Chicago Tribune
“Warren delivers exactly what I’m looking for.” —Joyfully Reviewed
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Tracy Anne Warren brings readers the second book in the Graysons series, The Man Plan. This is a contemporary romance set in the world of business. The hero is a successful businessman, while the heroine is an up and coming artist. It's a case of opposites attracting, but they have a lot to overcome, including a substantial age difference and the fact that Ivy's sister left James at the alter in the previous book. Warren is able to pull it all together to provide readers with an adventurous love story that will have them on pins and needles to see if the seduction works. What I liked: After reviewing the first book in this series, The Last Man on Earth, I was hoping that James would get his own story. I wanted to see the nice guy finish first instead of last. His character seemed very genuine and caring. I wanted to see him find his own happy ever after because he was jilted by Madelyn and because I wanted to know more about him and I'm really glad that Tracy Anne Warren gave us a book that takes a deeper look into his character. What I didn't like: In The Man Plan, James becomes of the object of Ivy Graysons deepest desires. Her sister may have left him at the altar, but Ivy wanted to be the one to pick up the pieces and now she may have her chance. James is a very successful businessman. His career and his love life seem to be going alright from an outsiders point of view. I liked James in this book, but not quite as much as in the first one. I thought he got a little short changed in The Man Plan. I wanted to see a lot more depth to his character. I understood his need to stay away from Ivy and her conniving. He was the older man and she seemed too young and naive for him, but he just couldn't resist. I was hoping for a love interest that was his equal and didn't quite find that here. Ivy was not what I expected. I am generally okay with the theme of the older man, having been in that situation myself. But this time it just didn't seem to work. Ivy's maturity level was just too far removed from that of James. He seemed every inch, a man, while she still had all the characteristics of an infatuated girl. Her decisions were often rash and her reactions more like a teenager than a young woman. She goes into her 'man plan' to get James to fall in love with her, all the time knowing he had a girlfriend. I just couldn't make myself respect her or like her. That doesn't happen too often for me. Bottom Line: I like Tracy Anne Warren's writing but this book fell a little short for me. I wanted so much more for James. He had his moments of being underwhelming in this book and Ivy was just too young for him in every way. I wish I could have liked this one because I enjoyed James' character so much in the first one, but it just didn't hold together. The last few chapters were good, but the rest of the book was a bit too cliche. As with any book you should read it and see what you think. My opinion is just that, my opinion and yours may be different.
Great read. Wonderful character development. A romance that is real and believable. I would recommend it to anyone who likes romance, a five star read.