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Workaholic Lanie Rogers lives a completely nomadic lifestyle. Her job keeps her on the move, and relationships are a complication she doesn't need. That is, until she meets Mr. Tall, Dark, and Hotness at a pre-wedding party. Complicated? Maybe. But lately, Lanie's life has been missing a little something—and sexy playboy Tyler Norris offers something she definitely can't refuse.
Tyler has always been a little too popular with women for his own good. Ever since he and his buddies vowed to remain bachelors, Tyler figured he was safe from temptation. Lanie and her gorgeous brown eyes are about to prove him so, so wrong. With one kiss, the heat is intense. After one night, it's pure combustion. It was supposed to be a no-strings fling—until these two commitment-phobes each discover the one undeniable exception to their rule.
My name may be on the cover, but it takes a village to make a book come to life.
Many thanks to Amy Pierpont, and her infinite patience with this book. Some books are easier than others, and Tyler and Lanie were slow to share their story with me. Many thanks to Amy for helping me coax it out of them.
At this point in my writing career, I’m so thankful for my friend Angela Polidoro. She’s always there when I need writing or business advice. I’m also thankful for my friend Shannon Mayer. We still haven’t met in person, but we’ve spent countless hours on the phone and in Facebook message chats talking about kids, books, politics, business, and friendship. We may live in different countries, but we’re only a phone call away.
Thank you to my children and their continued patience with Mommy and her crazy job, although I think they sometimes secretly love when I’m buried in my laptop and headphones—they’ve learned how to use my distraction for their own purposes.
And finally—and always—thank you to my readers, who chose to read me out of the millions of books available. That is never lost on me.
Tyler Norris…This is the last place I ever expected to see you.” The blonde was eyeing him like he was the last margarita on ladies’ night at La Fuente Bar and Grill.
Tyler leaned back in his patio chair and sipped his beer, hiding his annoyance with a smirk. This was the fourth woman to approach him tonight, and while he was used to women hitting on him, this seemed to be a bit much given that he was a single man at a couple’s wedding shower.
“How’d you get roped into it?” she asked, her right hand on her hip.
Theresa Fink. He hadn’t seen her since high school, but the look in her eyes told him she was very happy to see him. She lifted the wineglass in her left hand, spotlighting her bare left ring finger, even going so far as to slightly wiggle it to catch his attention.
She continued studying him with lust-filled eyes, apparently expecting an answer. He finally shrugged his nonchalance. “Turns out being groomsman means the bride can strong-arm you into anything she wants.” That wasn’t entirely true—he had a soft spot when it came to Brittany—but no need to tell Theresa that.
Her eyes lit up. “Maybe she can spill some of her secrets. Your legend precedes you, Tyler Norris.”
Chuckling, he took a drag of his beer. “And which legend is that? I hear there are many.” He winked. “And the ones about my size and endurance are all true.”
Theresa flushed, pressing her hand against her chest and fluttering her eyelashes.
Jesus. Why did he tell her that? Old habits were still hard to break, but now she looked like a barracuda ready to gnaw off his leg. Or more specifically, another body part in very close proximity.
“Tyler,” a deep voice said behind him. “Holly needs your help with the ice.”
Tyler tried not to look relieved when he jumped to his feet and turned to face Kevin Vandemeer. “Yeah. Be more than happy to.”
Disappointment washed over Theresa’s face, but he ignored her as she called after him, “Want to get drinks later?”
Tyler walked through the suburban backyard, feeling like he was about to break out into hives just being here, let alone sitting outside in the hot and humid Missouri August evening for the last hour. He tugged at his collar, regretting his decision to wear a tie.
“Thanks for the save,” he said as he followed Kevin to the back deck, then stopped to grab another beer from a bucket of ice water.
“The save comes at a price,” Kevin said with a chuckle. “You’re refilling the drink tubs with ice.”
“Me?” Tyler asked, standing upright and turning to face his friend. “Shouldn’t that be your job since your wife is in charge of the party?”
Kevin’s wife. Damn, that was hard to spit out. Not that he had anything against Holly, he actually liked her, and if Tyler was honest, she was a good fit for his friend. But of his two best friends, Kevin had been more like Tyler when it came to women. Lots of girlfriends that never lasted. So when Kevin had moved back home two months ago after his last tour in Afghanistan, the three friends had commiserated on their extremely unlucky love life and decided to give up on marriage, imposing a ban on women and forming the Bachelor Brotherhood.
Kevin Vandemeer had lasted one fucking day.
“My wife,” Kevin said in a warning tone, “was the one to suggest I save your ass, you dickweed. So get out to the garage and grab a couple of bags of ice out of the freezer or I’ll tell Theresa Fink that you want to leave the shower and go out for a candlelight dinner. Just the two of you.”
“You suck, Vandemeer,” Tyler grumbled.
Kevin’s answer was a shit-eating grin.
Tyler would have loved to kick his friend’s ass right then and there, but Brittany would have killed him. And while he considered doing it anyway, instead he went into the dark garage, deciding this wasn’t such a heinous task after all. It had to be ten degrees cooler in the two-car garage, and he was alone. Maybe he could hide in here for ten minutes or so, then tell Britt a work emergency had come up and he needed to go.
She’d see right through it and call his assistant to verify. And since her fiancé worked at his law firm, she definitely had the number.
Shit. He was stuck.
Tyler had been at Randy’s house enough times to know the garage refrigerator was stocked with beer, some of which were Randy’s precious import beers. Tyler opened the door and grinned. Jackpot. He grabbed a Stella and popped off the top using the opener attached to the wall, then took a long drag, letting the cold beer coat his dry mouth.
“I see you found Randy’s stash,” a woman said in the darkness.
Caught off guard, he choked, spitting beer down his shirt. He spun around and found her sitting on Randy’s workbench with her own bottle. Unlike every other guest at the shower, with the exception of him, she was still dressed in business attire—a sleeveless, light gray dress that ended just above her knees. Her legs were crossed, and she bounced one black, three-inch pump as she watched him, lowering the bottle from her mouth. She wore her long, dark hair down, and he couldn’t help but notice the strands that lay over her shoulder, brushing the tops of her breasts. He forced his gaze to rise to her face.
“Didn’t mean to startle you,” she said, her dark eyes dancing with amusement.
She was gorgeous, and damned if he wasn’t intrigued. “I didn’t see you over there.”
She grinned. “Obviously.”
He moved toward her, unable to stop himself. “Looks like we both have the same idea.”
She laughed. “If your idea is hiding from Brittany and drinking Randy’s import beer, then we do.”
He gestured to the empty spot on the workbench next to her, and she lifted her shoulder into a half-shrug invitation. Tyler hopped up on the bench and perched next to her, leaving a few inches between them. “So what’s a nice girl like you doing in a musty garage like this?”
She laughed again, uncrossing her long legs and turning toward him, her eyes full of mischief. “I bet you use that line on all the girls.”
“Only the ones I find in musty garages.” Up close like this, he could see that her dark eyes were a milk chocolate brown and framed by long, sexy eyelashes. She lifted her beer and took a sip, and he suddenly found himself jealous of the bottle in her hand.
“I know why you’re hiding,” she said as she set the beer next to her on the bench.
He smirked. “Okay, tell me why I’m hiding.”
“Brittany. She’s playing matchmaker again.” His eyes widened and she gave him a knowing smile. “It wasn’t that hard to figure out. For the last hour, she’s been sending women to you like they’re going through the turnstile at a ride in Disneyland, and you keep sending them away.” She flicked her fingers to demonstrate.
He lifted his eyebrows as he studied her face, then teased, “You’ve been watching me? I haven’t seen you before now.”
She cocked her head to the side, rolling her eyes. “Amateur. I’ve spent most of my time hiding. You obviously haven’t known Brittany for long.”
“About a year.” While they’d gone to high school together, they hadn’t been friends. He’d gotten to know her through Randy.
She laughed again. “I have about thirty years on you.”
Thirty years? Had she gone to school with them?
She gestured to his beer. “Since you have exceptional taste in beer and hiding spots, I’ll be generous and give you a few pointers.”
“Should I be taking notes?” he teased. While she was flirty, she wasn’t coming on to him, and it only intrigued him more.
She shrugged. “It wouldn’t hurt, but I suspect we’ll be seeing each other again in a month, so I can give you a refresher course at the wedding.”
Finally. Something to actually look forward to at the wedding.
“First,” she said in a conspiratorial tone,“Britt comes across as this sweet and unassuming woman, but don’t let that fool you.”
“No,” she said, pointing her finger at him. “She uses her charm to get you to do what she wants.” She stabbed his chest to make her point. “Look at poor Randy.”
Tyler was loyal to the people who stood by him, and he was about to defend Britt until he saw she was teasing. There was no doubt that Randy had been ensnared by Brittany, but it was just as obvious the adoration went both ways.
“You have to be firm.” She brought her hand down sideways onto her open palm, like a karate chop. “If you show the slightest sign of waffling, she’ll pounce.”
“So,” he said slowly, “you’re saying I haven’t been firm enough? That I can’t hold my own?” He gave her an arrogant grin. “Because I have a nickname that disputes that.”
“Oh, really?” she asked, her face lighting up in mock surprise. “Are we talking about cute nicknames that your guy friends have given you? Like The Terminator? Or Maverick?”
He shook his head and laughed, trying to think of the last time he’d enjoyed a woman’s company so much. “Sounds like somebody’s been binge-watching eighties movies on Netflix.”
“Busted.” She laughed, leaning her head to the side and exposing her long neck.
A wave of lust washed through him, and he struggled to control it. It was obvious she wasn’t an easy conquest. Oddly enough, he considered playing the long game with her.
What the fuck was wrong with him? He wasn’t supposed to be playing the game at all.
She shook her head, her grin tugging at the corners of her full lips. “So what’s this awesome nickname of yours? I take it my suggestions came from the wrong decade.”
He gave her a long look, now reluctant to share. “The Closer.”
Her eyes widened in amusement. “Because you’re so good with the ladies?” She waggled her eyebrows.
He laughed, feeling like an idiot. “And because I can close a case before it goes to trial.”
“Uh-huh. Sure.” She hopped off the bench and wobbled a little on her heels, cluing him in that she’d had more than the one beer tonight. “Well, Mr. Closer, Brittany Stewart is much more subtle than that.” She pushed his legs open and stood between them, grabbing a handful of his tie and pulling his face inches from hers. “She sees you as a challenge. She thinks everyone in the whole wide world needs to be in love, and she won’t rest until it happens. And you are the perfect challenge.” She dropped his tie and spread her hands out. “Big bad womanizer who can’t bring himself to let his guard down and let a woman in, much less love her. Why Britt just can’t resist.” She laughed and grabbed his tie again, slowly leaning closer. “The more you resist her efforts, the more determined she becomes.”
Her breath fanned his face, and it took everything within him to keep his hands to himself, because instinct told him that if he made a move, she’d give him a brush-off so epic, an 8.0 earthquake would pale in comparison.
And he definitely did not want her to give him a brush-off.
“And how do you know all this?” he asked, proud that he sounded so in control.
Her lips hovered inches over his, and she whispered, “I’ve been her number one project for the last ten years. Lucky for me, it looks like I’ve just been usurped.” She dropped her hold on his tie, then smoothed it down his chest, her fingertips trailing to his abdomen in small sweeps.
A fresh jolt of lust rushed through his blood, and he gripped the sides of the bench, hoping she didn’t see how much she affected him when her eyes lifted to his.
“So why didn’t she try to fix me up with you?” he asked, his voice husky despite his intentions.
Her smile became sardonic. “Because she’s figured out that I’m a lost cause.” Then she turned and walked back into the kitchen, her tight dress perfectly hugging her rounded ass.
As he took the last drag of his beer and tossed the bottle into the recycling bin, he realized that never in his thirty-three years had he been so turned on by a woman.
And he didn’t even know her name.
Lanie Rogers left Mr. Tall, Dark, and Handsome in the garage and headed to the backyard in search of her cousin. The heat hit her as she walked out the back door, and beads of perspiration instantly popped out on her forehead. She might have been born and raised in the Midwest, but fourteen years away had made the summer humidity unbearable—reason number two for hiding in the garage.
She was overdressed, but her conference call with the West Coast office had run long, which meant she hadn’t had time to change. She should have taken comfort that the sexy guy in the garage was even more overdressed than she was, but it only made her think of running her fingertips down his tie…and lower.
Good Lord. What had she been thinking? Even the two beers she’d downed in thirty minutes didn’t explain it. She could chalk it up to stress. And going nearly a year without a relationship.
And the fact that he was so sexy.
She shook her head. No. She couldn’t go there. She had enough trouble at work. She didn’t need the complication of a man. Especially when she was moving on to Phoenix in a month.
“Does that head-shake mean you won’t go to lunch with me this week?” a voice asked to her right.
Lanie blinked and realized Brittany was studying her. Her long hair was pulled up in a ponytail, and she was wearing a yellow sleeveless dress that looked great with her tan skin and dark brown hair. “Sorry. I was thinking about…work.”
Brittany gave her a smirk. “You promised no work tonight. Your secret store isn’t going anywhere.”
Lanie’s eyes widened, and she glanced around to see if anyone had heard her. “Britt, you can’t talk about it. It’s classified.” As soon as the word left her mouth, she regretted it.
That damn beer.
“Classified,” Brittany scoffed. “You make it sound like you’re working with the nuclear warhead codes.”
After her conference call two hours ago, Lanie would have preferred the detonation codes. She made sure no one was nearby, then lowered her voice. “Okay, wrong word choice, but you get the point. Joke all you want, but if this leaks, I’m as good as fired.”
Her cousin looked dubious. “You’re kidding.”
“And why do you think we make all the people in the know sign NDAs?”
“Surely word’s leaked out before the opening of one of those stores.” When she saw Lanie’s warning look, she rolled her eyes. “Calm down. I never even said the name.”
Margo Benson Boutique.
Margo Benson designs were sophisticated yet affordable, and there were only fifteen stores in the entire world. Before one opened, secrecy was the absolute name of the game, and Lanie’s job depended on it.
“You can’t even hint at it.” Lanie’s stomach knotted with anxiety. Britt didn’t need to name the store. The term secret opening was clue enough to cause speculation. Up until today, Lanie had been sure her ruse was working. It had taken a few strings to get everything lined up, but the community seemed to have accepted that the retail space in the nearly century-old outdoor shopping plaza where the boutique was opening was undergoing a structural update.
But during her earlier conference call from her new West Coast VP, Lanie had found out rumors were floating around that a Margo Benson was going into the Country Club Plaza. A Kansas City Star reporter had called corporate in LA asking for confirmation, but the public relations manager had given her the brush-off, saying there were larger metropolitan areas higher on the potential location list.
The crisis seemed temporarily averted, but the VP had made her displeasure clear and placed the blame on Lanie. Not that Lanie was surprised. Eve Gaines had made it clear from day one that she planned to come in and put her mark on everything. Which included fixing things that didn’t need to be fixed. It was nothing new. Lanie had been through it several times before, but it didn’t make it any less annoying now.
“Eve,” Lanie had said, trying to keep her cool, “I realize this is your first Margo Benson opening, but this is my twelfth. The secret openings were easy to pull off the first four or five times, but people are watching now. It’s next to impossible to keep them under wraps.”
“Are you saying you can’t do the job?” her boss had asked in a sharp tone.
“I’m saying that I’m having to become more creative. We paid the management of the Plaza a handsome fee to support our cover story.”
“Well, someone knows that Montgomery Enterprises is opening a store in Kansas City,” Eve countered.
“They don’t know,” Lanie countered. “They only speculated. For all we know, it was a cold call hoping to strike gold. The same thing happened in Seattle. But I’ll talk to the handful of people who do know tomorrow and remind them of the importance of minding their NDAs.”
“And remind them that negating those NDAs comes at a steep price.”
The first two Margo Benson locations had surprise grand openings, and since the brand was so popular, corporate discovered that each new opening was met with greater fanfare than the last. Every city wanted a Margo Benson Boutique, so when the tarps covering the storefront were pulled away on opening day, it was a media phenomenon. The store received publicity they couldn’t buy even if they tried. But keeping the press off the scent and the openings secret had been a nightmare at the last two stores.
What if she couldn’t pull this one off?
Britt tugged on Lanie’s wrist. “Come on. I’ll introduce you to the other bridesmaids before I open my gifts. I promise to maintain your cover story.” She winked. “You’re a retail time management consultant and offer suggestions on increasing productivity.”
Lanie grinned back and shook her head, sending a shooting pain through her skull. She touched her temple in an effort to ease the beginning of a headache. “I love you, Britt, but you know there’s not a domestic bone in my body, so I’m going to beg off watching you open gifts. Toasters and juicers give me the hives.”
Britt wrinkled her nose. “A juicer? Like I’d ever use a juicer.”
Lanie paused, then pointed to the present table. “See that white rectangular box with the white bow? Just hide it under the table, and I’ll bring you the receipt when we meet for lunch.”
“A juicer?” Britt asked with a laugh. “Do you even know me at all?”
The question was asked in jest, but Lanie turned serious. She and Britt hadn’t gone to the same schools when they were kids, but they’d lived five miles apart and had been best friends until Lanie had headed to the East Coast for college. She’d tried to keep in touch, but her job had gotten in the way. Just like it had gotten in the way of relationships with her past boyfriends and cultivating friendships. As she stared at her cousin and looked around at the backyard full of people who clearly loved Brittany and Randy, Lanie suddenly wondered what she’d sacrificed for the sake of Margo Benson.
Worry filled Britt’s eyes. “Are you okay?”
Lanie waved her off. “Just my headache.”
“Okay, I’ll give you a reprieve this time. You go home, and I’ll fill you in about all my presents when we meet for lunch.”
“Brio at noon on Thursday,” Britt said. “It’s close to…where you’re working, so you’ll be less likely to back out at the last minute.”
Lanie didn’t deny it. She’d already cancelled a lunch and a happy hour with her cousin. She vowed to make it this time.
Britt kissed Lanie on the cheek. “You work too hard. Life’s short, Lanie. Don’t waste it.”
Lanie watched her cousin walk over to Randy, snagging his hand and pulling him toward the present table. Adoration filled his eyes as he gazed down at his bride-to-be.
Lanie had sacrificed this. And until this afternoon, it had been worth the price.
Now she wasn’t so sure.
On Wednesday morning, Tyler was supposed to be preparing for a deposition, but his mind kept wandering again to the mystery woman in the garage. He’d seen her talking to Brittany when he’d brought out the ice to Holly. She’d left soon after, and he’d never found out who she was—not that he’d tried very hard. He hadn’t dared asked Britt, and the few people he’d questioned had no idea.
It hadn’t stopped him from thinking about her. In his bed. And in his shower. And even on his kitchen counter.
And it bothered the shit out of him.
Of course he’d had his share of daydreams and fantasies, but he’d never had so many of just one woman. Tyler was an equal-opportunity fantasizer. But then, he’d never gone five months without sex either. Maybe the two were related.
“Hey, Tyler.” Victor Minecroft, one of the associates at Goldman, Taylor, Hughes, and Evans, stood in his doorway. “What can you tell me about your case a few years ago, the one about the real estate contract.”
Tyler gave him a sardonic grin. “That narrows it down to about twenty.”
“The one with the noncompete lease.” When Tyler continued staring at him, Victor added, “The case with the hot blonde.”
“Oh.” Tyler nodded with a grin. “That one.”
“You totally screwed her, didn’t you?”
Leaning back in his chair, Tyler picked up his pen and clicked the top. “I would never hook up with a client.” Then he grinned. “But after I won, we might have had a celebratory evening.”
“You’re the man, Norris.”
He used to be that man. He’d slept with a lot of women, never forming any deep attachments. And that’s exactly how he’d preferred it. Then last spring, he’d decided he was thirty-three and it was time to settle down. So he’d found a woman who had seemed normal, if not boring. He’d been so wrong.
As though Victor could read his mind, he asked, “Hey, what ever happened with your crazy ex?”
Tyler tried to hide his unease, shifting in his seat. “Which one?”
- "Swank's fluffy, feel-good storytelling proclaims the primacy of love as a force to which everyone should surrender-the bachelors destined to star in future installments haven't got a chance."—Publishers Weekly (starred review) on Only You
- "Warm and funny, the first book in the Bachelor Brotherhood series reads like a great Hollywood rom-com."—iBooks Best Books of June on Only You
- "Right from the beginning, readers will be cheering for this couple to find their happily-ever-after...The story is well-written and paced in a way that readers will have a hard time putting it down."—RT Book Reviews on Only You
- On Sale
- May 30, 2017
- Page Count
- 352 pages