He didn't believe in fairy tales
Romantic fantasies and happy endings don't fit Oakes Bartasavich's reality. Of course, neither does his breathtaking attraction to Daphne Lynch. From his prestigious career to his volatile family, there's too much at stake to risk one kiss — let alone one night — with her.
But a snowy Christmas stranded together in Shady Grove, Pennsylvania, shines light on everything he's fighting to deny. Daphne isn't just a beautiful temptation. She's a strong, intelligent, kind woman who deserves a happily-ever-after. One that Oakes isn't sure he can give her...no matter how much he'd like to.
About the Author
Beth's emotionally intense stories are balanced with just a hint of snark, which has netted her three Golden Heart finals and in 2007-a coveted win. Her winning manuscript, Not Without Her Family, sold to Harlequin Superromance, marking the achievement of her original dream and the beginning of what she hopes is a long career writing the stories she loves.
When Beth's not writing (or daydreaming, mumbling to herself or playing Spider Solitaire) she can be found making some of the many recipes she collects, redecorating her home or stringing beads together. She has been honored by her kids as "The Only Mum in Town Who Makes Her Children Do Chores" and "The Meanest Mum in the World" - as if there's something wrong with counting down the remaining days of summer vacation until school starts again. To learn more about Beth, her books or to get her latest favorite recipe, check out her website above.
Beth loves to hear from readers via her email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Read an Excerpt
Oakes Barta savich considered himself a lucky man. He was healthy, had a large and close-knit family and had recently made partner at one of Houston's most successful law firmstwo years ahead of his original schedule.
And yet, despite all that good fortune, this was the first time he'd awakened at 3:00 a.m. to find a beautiful woman in a tight, short red dress on his porch, with a pair of sparkly silver high heels and matching purse in one hand.
Too bad. A man could get used to this.
Not this particular beautiful woman, he amended quickly. Another beautiful woman. One who was closer to his own age of thirty-one, whose ties to him and his family weren't so complicated.
Definitely not Daphne Lynch, with her dark hair, blue eyes and curvy, voluptuous body. Daphne Lynch, the twenty-three-year-old half sister of Zach Castro, one of Oakes's five half brothers.
Yeah. Complicated summed it up. And was the best possible definition of his family.
"Daphne," he said, his voice rough from sleep. He cleared his throat. Wished he'd thought to change into jeans, maybe pulled on a shirt instead of rushing to the door in his bare feet and a pair of thin pajama pants. There was definitely a chill in the early December air. "What's the matter? Are you hurt?"
"Nope. I'm just fine and dandy. I haven't been mugged or in an accident. I'm not being chased by a crazed lunatic or running from the cops." She patted his bare chest, her fingers cool against his skin, then lowered her voice conspiratorially. "I'm drunk."
"Yes," he said, taking in her flushed cheeks, glazed eyes and the way she was swaying, like a tree in the wind. "I can see that now."
Would have seen it right away, he assured himself, if he hadn't been so shocked by her presence. It was the dress's fault. The neckline was too wide and low, showing ample amounts of golden skin and the rounded tops of her full breasts. It was too tight, the gathered material clinging to her waist and hugging her hips. And it was way too short, ending an inch above midthigh.
"Well?" she asked, her hand now pressed to his chest, her pinkie rubbing the spot just above his heart. His body liked her touch way too much.
Stepping back, he grabbed her wrist and tugged her hand away before she noticed how hard his heart was beating. "Well what, Daphne?"
"Aren't you going to invite me in?"
Invite her in? As in inside his house? No. Better yet, make that hell no.
He was a smart man. A cautious one. Cautious enough to know that letting Daphne Lynch into his home at this late hour, in her current state, wearing that damn dress, would be the beginning of the end of his life as he knew it.
A life he liked just the way it was.
"Please, Oakes." Her voice was low. Sexy. Inviting. The hairs at the nape of his neck stood on end. His fingers tightened on her slender wrist. She shifted closer, her knee brushing his leg, her scent clouding his brain.
For a second, a brief, terrifying moment in time, he forgot all the very valid, extremely reasonable reasons why he shouldn't want her. All the problems that would arise should he give in to his baser instincts, the ones that had dogged him with increasing intensity over the past few years.
In that all-too-fleeting space of time, he allowed himself the luxury of imagining they were just two unattached adults with no crazy family connections. No shared siblings. No tangled ties to trip over. If he wasn't a Bartasavich, if she had a different mother, if Zach hadn't been born, Oakes could take what he wanted. Could finally bend his head, press his mouth against hers and see if the spark he'd been doing his best to deny for six years would sputter and fade. Or burst into flame.
Daphne shifted. And shifted again, her left hip, then her right. "I really, really have to pee."
The breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding rushed out of his mouth on a short, surprised laugh. He needed to check his ego. She wasn't here to seduce him. She had to use the bathroom.
He'd go to his grave claiming he wasn't disappointed.
"Sorry," he said, opening the door wider and moving back. "Come on in."
She brushed against him as she stepped inside, the contact slight enough, he was sure it must have been an accident.
Too bad his body didn't understand that the brief feel of a woman's soft, fragrant skin and lush curves against him didn't require the beginnings of an erection.
"Uh the bathroom's down the hall, first door on the right," he told her.
Already heading that way, she waved a hand at him, the ends of her dark hair brushing her shoulders. "I know where it is."
"Right." Of course she did. This wasn't the first time she'd been in his home. They were friends.
In a roundabout way. A very twisting, turning, convoluted way.
In the way that meant he shouldn't let his gaze drop, shouldn't tip his head to the side and take in how good her ass looked in that dress, shouldn't enjoy the sway of her hips. He jerked his eyes up but that wasn't any better. Again, he blamed the dress. Because instead of a back, one with plenty of coverage, it had only two straps twisted together to form an X.
And he was going to hell for wanting to trace one of those straps, for wanting, if only for a brief, crazed moment in time, to brush aside her hair and trail a finger up the back of her neck. For not being able to turn away until she'd closed the bathroom door behind her.
Damn Bartasavich genes. Always trying to get him into trouble. But he wasn't his father. Clinton Bartasavich, Sr. had spent his entire life taking what he wanted without thought or care to the consequences. Mostly because when you were one of the wealthiest men in the country, there were no consequences.
It would have been easy for Oakes to follow in Senior's footsteps. Entitlement came with the last name. Nothing was out of the reach of a Bartasavich, a belief that Senior fully embraced, especially when it came to women. Five of his six marriages ended due to his numerous infidelities, and he'd fathered four sons by three different women.
Oakes had no doubt his father's last marriage would have suffered the same fate as his previous ones had he not had a stroke over a year and a half ago. Senior's young wife hadn't been able to handle being tied to a man who could no longer take care of himself and had opted for a quick divorceand the payout guaranteed in her prenuptial agreement.
Oakes was fully aware that he'd grown up extremely privileged, but his mother and stepfather had instilled in him a sense of gratitude for that life. Had taught him how important it was to give back, to help those less fortunate.
No, he wasn't his father. Never would be. And that was why he'd never take advantage of any woman, especially not this particular woman, not when she'd come to him for help.
Or at least to use his bathroom.
Feeling much better, he hurried down the hall, tripping over her sparkly shoes before righting himself and continuing on to his bedroom. He changed into jeans then grabbed a T-shirt from his dresser and yanked it on. Stepped toward the door and remembered the feel of Daphne's hand on his skin. How soft her fingers were. How warm.
How much he'd enjoyed it.
He turned around, crossed to the closet and picked out a sweatshirt. A thick one.
He was tugging down the hem of it when he reentered the living room and found Daphne curled up on the leather sofa, her legs tucked under her, her elbow on the sofa's arm, head supported in her hand.
"You need anything?" he asked.
She tipped her head back, her grin goofy and so sweet it made his chest ache. "Nope. It's all good."
He wasn't sure about that. He flipped on the lamp, illuminating her face, then scratched the side of his neck. Was it his imagination or were her lips glossier, redder, than when she'd first arrived? And in this light, he could see she'd done something to her eyes, one of those magic tricks women performed to make the usually guileless blue of them seem somehow smoky and mysterious.
"So everything's okay," he said slowly. "You're not hurt or sick and yet you're here. At my house. At three a.m."
She touched her upper cheek with her forefinger then slid it onto the tip of her nose, pointed at him with her other hand. A drunk playing her own game of charades. "Bingo."
"Any reason you're at my house and not your own?"
When she didn't continue, he sat on the coffee table in front of her. "Want to tell me what that reason is?"
"Your house is closer," she said, as if that made all the sense in the world.
"Closer to where?"
"To the club."
This was getting him nowhere. As a trial attorney with a high win record, he was used to asking questions and getting answers. He was damn good at it, too, if he did say so himself.
He eyed the woman currently humming a pop tune under her breath. Usually. He was usually good at it.
"I take it you went out tonight?" he asked.
He hadn't realized she was into the club scene. Then again she was young enough that it made perfect sense that she might enjoy spending her Saturday night being jostled by bumping and grinding strangers while lights flashed and the bass pumped.
He winced infinitesimally. He was thinking like a ninety-year-old man.
She sighedthe long, drawn-out sigh of the weary and put-upon. "I didn't want to. Nadine made me."
"My cousin. Actually, my other cousins were there, too. Julie and Michelle and Steph," Daphne said, ticking the names off her fingers. "But Nadine was the ringleader. She decided I needed to go out. They kidnapped me," she said, attempting to slap the arm of the sofa but missing and almost toppling into his lap. He caught her by her upper arms, helped her back onto the cushion then quickly let go. "They told me we were going out to dinner, that Julie needed a break from the twins but they lied and they They took me against my will. Can I press charges?"
"It might be better if we hold off on any discussions about legal ramifications until we're both sober."
She tapped his knee twice, left her hand to settle there. "You're a smart one, aren't you? But then they don't give out law degrees just for being pretty. And when we have our talk about legal ramen ramekin whatever, we can discuss a civil suit against my cousins for being liars. For being no-good, rotten lying liars who lie. Don't believe them," she said as she suddenly clutched his hand, her voice taking on a desperate quality. "No matter what they say, don't believe a word of it. Ever."
"Promise," he repeated solemnly because it seemed so important to her. Then again, alcohol made even the most mundane things exciting, the most minor issue important.
"Okay." She relaxed the death grip she had on him and eased back. "Okay then."
"Why don't we get you some coffee?" he suggested.
"Oh, I can't have coffee this late," she told him, her eyes wide, her gaze earnest. "It'll keep me up."
She was so adorable, he couldn't help but grin. "How about we try it anyway? See if it sobers you up a bit?" And hopefully, helps her be more clear and concise in her answers as to why she was there.
She returned his smile. "Okay. But I should help you," she said when he got to his feet.
She started to stand and he pressed gently on her shoulders until she sat back on the edge of the sofa. "I've got this." But he realized he was still touching her. The thin straps of her dress were silky, her skin incredibly warm under his palms. The ends of her hair tickled the backs of his fingers and he sprang back, releasing her. Was fervently glad he'd put on jeans as he shoved his traitorous hands into their pockets. "You, uh, just relax. And tell me the rest of your story."
"What story?" she asked, still smiling at him.
Holy hell, this was going to be a long night. "About how your cousins forced you to get drunk."
Laughing as if that was the funniest thing she'd ever heard, she fell back against the couch, breasts bouncing, bare legs stretched out. She had a low, throaty laugh, the kind that scraped pleasantly along a man's nerve endings.
"Don't be silly," she said, still chuckling. "They didn't force me to get drunk. They forced me to go to the club. After dinner they told me we were going home but instead, we ended up at The District."
The District being one of Houston's most popular dance clubs, less than a mile from here. "I stand corrected. Although I'm a little confused as to why you stayed at the club if you didn't want to be there."
"I was going to leave," she said as she got unsteadily to her feet, bringing their bodies much too close for Oakes's comfort, "but then the DJ played 'Uptown Funk' and it's impossible to hear that song and not dance so I had to get on the dance floor."
"Right." He tried to put some distance between them but only managed to collide with the coffee table when he stepped back. He shifted to the right then circled around the sofa. "None of that explains why you came here," he said as he walked behind the granite-topped island, which separated the kitchen from the living room. "Why you're not still with your cousins."
A headache began to form behind his right eye.
"Oh." She flopped back down, crossed her arms on the back of the couch and watched as he opened an upper cabinet for the coffee. "Well, I'm not with my cousins because Julie and Steph went home earlyJulie's husband has to work in the morning and Steph's youngest has an ear infection. Then Nadine took off in a huff after getting into an argument with her boyfriend via text and the last time I saw Michelle she was dirty dancing with a leggy blonde in a leather miniskirt."
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Okay. Well. As I was reading through this story, I hoped for a major twist in the plot, because as it was, it was desperate and heading for a major failure. Here's the situation - Oakes is the older half brother of Zach, Daphne's older half brother. Daphne and Zach's mother was a nanny for Oakes, when she had an affair with Oakes' dad, and became pregnant with Zach. Right, not the most traditional family ever. When you add to it that Daphne's dad was an alcoholic, who had abused the family, and tried to coerce Daphne to give him money at her high school graduation... Just as dysfunctional as it can be. So, when a psychology student, Daphne, goes after her long time crush, the lawyer Oakes, acting desperate, silly, making schemes to get them together, and outright begging him to pay attention to her, kiss her, sleep with her, whatever it was that she wanted at the time, it was embarrassing. Because even though Oakes didn't deny, that he was physically attracted to Daphne, and liked to be her friend, he was also very clear he didn't want to, or like to be attracted to her, didn't want to have a relationship with her, and only slept with her to get her out of his system. But even that doesn't stop her, she really still, goes after him, showing up at a party where he is with the woman he choose to be, wants to be with, who, according to him, fits into his life and is attractive, interesting, and all around lovely to be with... So, I admit, I had really hard time believing he actually would change his mind, or convince me that it was true love, after all that happen before. I'm sorry, but this couple didn't convince me of anything else, except that she was desperate, not very mature, and stubborn to the fault. There was also another couple in the story, the teenagers from the previous book of the series, Luke and Gracie. The teenage love drama that they lived through seemed more mature at the times, as the grownups, and was a cute addition to the book, even though in no way attached to the main plot. Yes, this story frustrated and embarrassed me more than anything else, but thankfully the teenagers saved part of the story.. Sorry, I really wish I could have understood and liked the story more than I did ~ Two Spoons with a teaspoon on the side
Oakes is too busy trying to please and mediate everyone and everything around him to stop and enjoy life. When nature throws him a curve ball in the form of Daphne Lynch and an unexpected storm he is forced to reexamine what is more important. Winter's Kiss was a sweet story about making time to explore and enjoy all the blessings that are placed in your pathway. I received an ARC of this story in exchange for an honest review.