It's not enough that Kelsey's husband left her for another woman. Oh, no. The "other woman" had to be her best friend Evan's fiancée. Not only has she lost her marriage, she fears losing Evan to the lingering awkwardness and humiliation that hangs between them.
Evan has no intention of letting that happen. He's got plans...namely, an extra plane ticket to Hawaii now his future wife is out of the picture. There's only one person he wants on the trip with him, the one who's always been there for him. The one he should never have let slip away into the arms of a traitorous friend who shattered her heart.
Kelsey is anticipating a week of fun in the sun with the man who's always treated her like a little sister. No one's more surprised when she discovers that Evan has seduction on his mind-and that she's more than ready for it.
Love is the most powerful healing force of all. But past demons have a way of ripping open old wounds, and threatening the survival of even the strongest friendship...
Warning: This title contains explicit sex between best friends, graphic language...and a hero who knows how to put the hot in "hot tub".
About the Author
A veteran of the stage and the spoken word, Alix Dale is a huge fan of the romance genre. Her voice can be heard steaming up books as well as frightening people on screen with voice-over for horror films.
Read an Excerpt
"Aloha, gorgeous. How'd you like to run away with me to Hawaii?"
Kelsey Peterson had been taking a sip of her latte after she answered the phone ringing on her desk. The proposition that met her greeting — deep, breathy, undeniably male — sent the portion of the gulp she hadn't choked on spewing across her monitor. What the hell?
Hacking like a lifetime smoker, she gasped for oxygen and reached across her desk for tissues, mind still reeling. The instant he broke into laughter over the line, the world righted itself ... somewhat. Still, it took a moment before she could form words, and he — damn him — seemed to be having the time of his life.
"I'm sorry," she said, "the receptionist told me Evan Ross was calling. Obviously, whoever you are, you've kidnapped him and taken over his body."
"Sounds kinky." The response was jovial, normal — the Evan she'd known since college. So what if she'd enjoyed the fantasy for one nanosecond? "How are things on the dark side?" he asked. "Haven't made a decision to join us good guys yet?"
"You know we have to maintain our balance between good and evil." She began to mop up the mess she'd made as he chuckled. As a prosecutor in the district attorney's office, Evan agonized over her position as legal assistant to a defense attorney he often faced in court.
"How have you been, Kels?" Evan asked.
"Yeah, so? How are you?" That question was far more loaded than it sounded. For both of them.
"I'm actually good. I'm really, really good." Oh, God help her, his voice had taken on that sexy purr again. She strangled over the remaining latte caught in her windpipe and held the receiver away from her mouth while she tried to clear it. So much for playing it cool. She hadn't spoken to Evan in weeks and, at this rate, it might be a few more before she was able.
She could hear him going on, oblivious to her struggles, and she brought the phone back to her ear. "It just so happens I've been struck by inspiration," he was saying.
"Really," she wheezed.
Concern suddenly tinged his voice. "Hey, are you all right? I didn't mean to freak you out back there. Man, this is going over well."
"Sorry, just —" She took another quick sip. "Okay. I'm a dweeb. So what is this you're rattling on about?"
"The very thing that made you nearly hack up a lung. I'm taking you to Hawaii. For a week. All expenses paid. Notice it was a statement and not a question?"
"You're ... taking me ... what?"
"It seems I'm stuck with a useless paid-for honeymoon. It was a gift from my parents."
"I didn't know about that."
He cleared his throat. "Well, I never bothered to cancel the reservations and, as it turns out, the plane tickets are nonrefundable. We'll lose Courtney's either way, but I happen to be staring at the airline website right now, ready to jump on a ticket for you on the same flight. Just say the word."
"I'm sure you have two dozen other buddies who would be thrilled to take this trip with you. Why me?"
"They probably snore and don't smell nearly as good as you."
"Jesus Christ, Evan Ross."
He burst out laughing. "I think you say that at some point every time we talk."
Kelsey tapped her pen against her keyboard, smiling absently. She loved hearing from Evan, always had. Since her divorce from his former best friend, Todd, there hadn't been very many opportunities to talk to him. Everything had changed last winter. She couldn't speak to Evan now without remembering one conversation in particular. It had been very brief, but it had involved her screaming at him like a banshee, crying and cursing into her cell phone, while he maintained dead silence on the other end. God, what a nightmare. She eased her head down on her desk, cringing as she always did whenever she thought about it.
"Come on. I know you want it. I know you need to get away. We both do."
Oh, she wanted it all right. And she didn't mean the trip. Well, maybe the trip. "Yes, but um ... together? If my boss found out, he wouldn't be pleased. Consorting with the enemy and all that."
"Of course. It's a covert op. No problem."
"Evan ... I can't afford to pay you for my ticket." It hurt to say it, but there it was.
"That's not even an issue. Don't give it another thought, and I mean that."
"Do your parents know, then?"
"Yeah, but you don't have to worry, they're discreet old souls. We have their blessing. So bring on the next objection, and let me slap that one down, too."
She doodled with absent ferocity. Hawaii. Hawaii! She'd never been. Evan had. If she was ever going to go, who better to go with? Why wouldn't her damn mind just shut up and let her accept? "I just can't."
"That's the easiest one of all. You can."
Kelsey's eyes widened as another thought occurred to her, and she glanced down at her desk calendar to be sure. "Wait a minute ... wasn't your wedding supposed to be in two weeks?"
"And your honeymoon to start right after?"
He chuckled. "Yep. So you see, I need an answer. Like now, Kelsey. Now."
"There's no way, then. Work —"
"I'll have a big case waiting for me against your esteemed employer just as soon as I get back, so don't talk to me about work. Hit me again."
"I'm going to ask you one more time. Why me? Is it pity? Because I don't need that —"
"God, no. Nothing like that." He was quiet for a moment, and she lifted her head to watch the quote on her screensaver marquee scroll by. Without the bitter, the sweet ain't as sweet. It was from Vanilla Sky. Evan went on, his voice somber now. "You and me, we've been through too much together for pity to play into it. We've been friends forever. What's wrong with two friends getting away from it all?"
When the friends are male and female, she thought. When they're apparently sharing a room ... and a bed ... in a honeymoon suite? When her occupation was all about causing his defeat. And when they had such a screwy history. Ten years certainly wasn't forever, though it sometimes felt like it.
Evan being sin incarnate had something to do with the wrongness of it, as well. His voice alone, rich and melodic over the line, had her wanting to slide her skirt up her thighs and plunge her hand into her panties right there in her office. One more word in that deep, erotic tone he'd used before and she might not be able to resist the urge.
She could just imagine what he looked like right now — his black hair perpetually tousled, his sharp green eyes fringed with eyelashes that could make a cover girl weep with envy. Eyebrows two decisive black brushstrokes. Probably had his jacket off and his tie loosened and his white shirtsleeves rolled up over his olive-skinned forearms, as always when he was on the job but not at court or in a meeting. As if he couldn't bear the restraint a minute longer than necessary. He might even be kicked back in his chair, his feet propped on his desk ...
Her boss, Jack Ballinger, always said when he tried a case against Evan, the jury's reaction to his opposing counsel concerned him more than their reaction to the defendant. More specifically, the women's reaction. "One twinkle from that boy's eye and they're ready to throw their goddamned panties at him during closing arguments," she'd overheard Jack say. Kelsey thought it was pretty damned misogynistic of him, but that was Jack.
She fidgeted in her seat, not wanting to prove her boss right just from a simple phone call from the man himself. Yes, she and Evan had been friends for years, but she'd had a raging crush on him long before she'd met and married his best friend. It had subsided ... somewhat. From a roaring flame to gently smoldering embers. But now that she was single — and so was Evan — she hadn't been able to stop it from flaring to life once again.
Did thirty-year-olds even have crushes?
Oh, this could not happen. There was no way. The idea seemed like pure bliss, but the reality, she knew, would be a nightmare. Another one, and she didn't think their friendship could bear that kind of strain now. He didn't know what he was doing.
"Evan, I think this is the sweetest thing anyone has ever offered me. But I can't."
He groaned playfully. "Please don't leave me like this, with my vision of having you isolated and helpless in Waikiki so cruelly denied."
She couldn't help but laugh. It was all innuendo on his part, at least she knew that much. Impossible flirt.
A week with that kind of innuendo might prove to be her undoing.
Her phone emitted a muffled ring and, upon checking the display, it was her turn to groan, though there was nothing playful about it. Jack. "Hey, I really have to go —"
"Not until you at least give me a maybe."
"Oh, you —"
"Give me an answer or I'm going to call Jack myself and request your time off."
"The reason I'm asking you is that no one else I know deserves this as much as you do. And we haven't hung out in a while. I feel bad about that. Let me make it right. Come on."
Maybe it was time for her to come undone.
"Evan?" She lowered her voice to a throaty phone-sex pitch.
"I'll think about it." Grinning like a fiend, she hit the button that disconnected him then put on her best professional voice to greet her boss on the other line. Lisa Scott's blue eyes were bright and ravenous as Kelsey finished filling her in on the strange conversation that had taken place that morning. "Evan Ross, whose pants you've wanted to get into since college, has invited you to Hawaii? Both of you now free and unattached — and your problem is what, exactly?"
Kelsey sighed as she stirred sweetener into her iced tea, sweeping a glance around their favorite diner. It was hopping with the usual lunchtime crowd. Sometimes — rarely, though — she saw Evan in here. "I think you just summed it up."
"Damn, girl. Please tell me you're not still in the all-men-are-pigs stage. Because it's just not true."
"It's not that. I know Evan's a good guy. Can't seem to sustain a relationship, though. And except with Courtney, he's usually been the one to cut and run."
"Uh-huh." Lisa smoothed a hand over her very pregnant belly. They'd had to pull the table closer to Kelsey so Lisa could squeeze into the booth, the only available seating. It had been hilarious to witness. "I'm waiting."
Kelsey shrugged, picking through her barely touched Caesar salad. "What? I caught his fiancée screwing my husband. You know this. I didn't hesitate to call Evan and scream into his ear about it. I didn't handle the situation well. It's a miracle he still speaks to me at all."
"But he does. He invited you on vacation with him. It sounds like the man is eternally grateful. He knows you probably saved him from a very expensive divorce on down the road."
"And I thought you handled the situation exceptionally well, given that I'd have plucked every blonde hair from Courtney's head, if I'd caught her with Daniel." Lisa leaned forward — as much as she was able — and placed her hand over Kelsey's on the tabletop. "Please go. I promise you, it'll be all right. Could be just what you both need. He wouldn't have invited you if he held anything against you. Or if he didn't care."
"I know he cares. But the way I see it, there's only a couple of possible outcomes here. One: nothing will change, and it really is two friends just getting away together, though I'm sure I'll fall hard for him again. Two: we'll have a week of wild sex during which I'll fall even harder and end up getting my heart broken. Neither one is very appealing right now."
"Three: you have a week of wild sex and live happily ever after. Or four: you get him out of your system and you're totally free from the burden, end of story. Or! Five: you meet the man of your dreams in Hawaii, and send Evan home to tell us you're never coming back."
"It's far more likely that he'll find a girl and send me back alone. I didn't even think of that. Thanks a lot."
"Shut up. You don't have to buy a pair of shoes just because you tried them on. They may look great sitting on the shelf, but that doesn't mean they won't feel like medieval torture devices on your feet once you wear them around for a few days. It's the same thing with men."
"I know me, though. If I sleep with him, I'm done for."
"You think too much. And you'd really better go to Hawaii or I'm giving up on you. Your divorce is final. You look great. You're ripe, girl, and we'll go shopping for a new bikini, and you'll look gorgeous in it and I'll hate your guts. Don't you dare hesitate to let him take it off you, should he feel so inclined. You're over He Who Shall No Longer Be Named and you're ready to have fun. Right?"
"Yeah, I'm over it. Not sure about the fun part."
"Sweetie, you had such a long, cold winter, but it's over. It's summer. You'll never have a better opportunity to get half naked around Evan Ross." Lisa lowered her voice and leaned farther across the table. "Come on, Kelsey. You know as well as I do that your vibrator can only do so much until you start craving a warm body to hang on to again."
For the second time that day, Kelsey nearly spit out her drink. "Yeah, well I don't even own one of those."
"Now I know what to get you for your birthday. Unless Evan removes all need for one between now and then. I demand that you go and get laid. Get drunk and have sensational toe-curling sex on the beach while I freaking sit at home and gestate."
Kelsey barked with laughter. "You're crazy. I'd rather sit at home gestating with a wonderful husband than go through this turmoil. You don't know how lucky you are."
Lisa sat back, an utterly satisfied smile on her face. She patted her swelling belly again. Her friend was the most adorable pregnant woman Kelsey had ever seen. She had such fun with it. "Well, you're not behaving in a manner conducive to landing a husband, woman. You generally have to leave your house for that. Evan is certainly a keeper. Maybe someday ..."
"Oh, okay, he's invited me on one trip, he hasn't proposed."
Too late; the girl was having way too much fun. Whenever Lisa laughed now, her belly bounced in a way that only made her giggle harder. And Kelsey's earlier words had rung as true as any she'd ever spoken. Lisa had a fantastic marriage, a beautiful family. It was all Kelsey had ever wanted, and the very thing she'd been denied on a cold, dreary day six months ago — only a week before Christmas. Her world had crumbled during an ill-timed trip home from work for some Advil.
It was heavy on her mind as she drove back to the office. Evan's phone call had brought it all crashing back. For months she'd considered it a stroke of fate that she'd been lost in her thoughts that day and driven right past the drugstore, her intended destination. Instead of turning around, she'd decided it would be easier to continue on the few extra blocks to her house. Maybe she could even lie down for fifteen minutes or so to see if her head would quit its dull, nagging ache. Looking back she wondered if that damn headache had been an omen.
Todd's car parked in their driveway in the middle of the day had been an odd sight, but she didn't think anything of it ... until she heard their muffled cries when she entered her front door. She staggered to her bedroom in a blind rage to find her husband lying beneath his best friend's fiancée in Kelsey's own bed.
She couldn't remember much after that. She just knew it had been ugly. Evan came to get the scandalized girl after Kelsey's hysterical and utterly embarrassing phone call, since Todd's car keys — both sets — had mysteriously wound up at the bottom of the swimming pool when he tried to leave with Courtney.
The look on Evan's face when he got there, the raw fury and devastated betrayal, was etched into her memory and would remain there from now on. Even in the throes of her own anger, she'd wanted to comfort him, but from the moment she saw him she knew he was beyond it. She and Courtney had been too busy calling an unspoken truce long enough to pull him and Todd apart in the front yard.
Kelsey would have been more than happy to let them go at it, because Evan had been so furious he'd have given Todd exactly what he deserved. But Todd clearly wasn't worth Evan getting slapped with an assault charge and jeopardizing the career he'd worked so hard to attain. Evan had refused to leave Kelsey alone with Todd until she had some backup. Lisa and Daniel had come to her rescue in that regard. She'd nearly collapsed in relief when they showed up and Evan hustled a mouthing, cursing Courtney to his truck, depositing her in the passenger seat. She would never forget the last searing glance he'd thrown her before he got in and drove away. She didn't know to this day what she'd read in that gaze.
Excerpted from "Unleashed"
Copyright © 2009 Cherrie Lynn.
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.
What People are Saying About This
“Unleashed more than earned Best Book status from me! I was captivated by this touching, yet passionate read and couldn’t wait to see what would happen next. This was Ms. Lynn’s first book, but I certainly hope it won’t be her last…”~ Whipped Cream Reviews “…a sweetly passionate story of a friendship that’s about to undergo some major changes. Cherrie Lynn infuses this story with humor, friendship, realistic emotions and all the beauty and freedom to be found while vacationing.”~ Romance Junkies “I could not help but fall in love with this couple and hope things worked out for them… The storyline was beautifully written… Suffice it to say that you will not be sorry to read this book.”~ The Romance Studio
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I really enjoyed this book and I liked the fact that it had 371 pages on my Nook. I read Unleashed first and liked it so much that I bought her other title "Rock Me", which I absolutely loved. Read both books. You will enjoy them both and if you have to buy them you will feel like you got your money worth as the other book Rock Me has 255 pages,
I really liked this book- it did have the romance cliche of the girl running to the hospital bedside of an ex they haven't talked to since breaking up thus making the current 'perfect guy' jealous- which I really hope doesn't happen in real life because its absurd. Other than that, it's a really fun read. This novel feels a bit more generic than Rock Me (follow up about the main guy's brother) but both are definitely worth the read.
Love this author! Will probably be reading a lot more by her. Rock Me was excellent and I was worried I wouldn't like this one as much, but Evan is as easy to fall in love with as Brian was.
It was nice to read something sweet and romantic for a change. I've been into a lot of like Bared To You type of books where it's filled with lust. Unleashed was a nice change of pace. Evan is so sweet and caring and you can feel his attraction to Kelsey. It's like you almost see they were suppose to be with each other from the beginning. It is a short read, but I highly recommend it.
Awesome book, loved the chemistry between Evan and Kelsey!
I just got done reading all 3 books couldnt put them down.each book was better then the other. I couldnt believe it. I highly recomend reading all 3 book but they are for adult reading lots of s e x
I really liked all 391 pages . This was a really great romance. The love scenes were HOT? I loved Evan Kesley was good, just a little weepy. Two very good characters
She has a fabulous way of really letting you feel the characters fall in love. Rock Me and Leave Me Breathless were better than this one - but they were all wonderful stories! I can't wait to read more of her work!
Fairly conventional love story with a bit of humor. Evan is your straight laced business man that oozes confidence, sexiness, and charisma. Overall, Good read, read it in one day!!
If you are looking for a light romance read this is a good pick.
Cant wait for more of her books!!
Kelsey's husband just cheated on her... with her best friend's fiancee. Kelsey and Evan don't know what to do about their cheating partners. But Evan has this idea of not wasting the honeymoon that he booked with his ex-fiancee. And maybe this time, Evan finally has the guts to tell Kelsey how he really feels for her. I really love the book description of this! That second chance romance kind of thing but not really. It's more of a best friends to lovers troupe but I love that they finally came to be. This was such a steamy book. The thing that I like with this book is that it really shows what a real relationship should be. I know that this is fiction and romance books has a tendency to be fluffy and good to be true. In this book, it shows that partners should be committed, there's trust, and they're in the same page as to what their futures should look like. I liked the book. the steaminess was just definitely a bonus in this story.
A very nice, sweet, romantic story. Enjoyable read.
Worth the time.
I love how the story line unfolded. It made you feel as though you were there.
Hot story between two people who belong together. If you believe in soul mates than read this! Would have liked more of a story but it was still a good read and fast.
Cherrie Lynn has an awesome way of letting us really get to know her characters. This book is playful, steamy, romantic, hot, relationships building, relationships having fallen apart. I can't wait to read the ROCK ME Series when I am done! Highly Recommend!
Call me a sucker for a "broken" alpha male but yes that's my weakness.