My birthday is coming up in almost a week so, to celebrate, I’m going to give one lucky reader a present! Beginning with today’s Monday Musings, through Wednesday’s Karen’s Killer Book Bench, and ending with Karen’s Killer Fixin’s blog on Friday, readers who comment will have a chance to win a digital (PDF) copy of my Valentine’s Day release, SATIN PLEASURES. Comment on all three blogs for three chances to win! (Only one comment per blog, please!) I will announce the winner at 6 p.m. (CMT) on my birthday Sunday, March 18th. Good luck!
If you enjoy series contemporary author, Janet Evanovich, you’re in for a treat with this tender, cute, and spicy story….
Back Cover Blurb
Bustiers, Birds, and the Blues…
Dan McDonald walked away from the American dream, a life full of money, glamorous women and power. Now nothing can lure him back into the corporate death trap. Except….
Dan’s scheming aunt snares him into opening a lingerie shop in Tess Emory’s shopping mall. Tess is everything Dan has vowed to avoid…sexy, smart, and obsessed with work.
Tess is determined to make her life a success and right the wrongs of her past, no matter the cost.
They’re both going to discover that true love breaks all their rules.
Copyright 2012 by Karen Docter
“Colby, if I’d had that brunette in my bass boat instead of you Aunt Mary would never have talked me off the lake.” Dan McDonald tore his gaze away from the view in the truck windshield to grin at his dog, affectionately named Colby, after the cheese the German shepherd loved so much. “Bet she doesn’t kiss like you…the brunette, I mean, not Aunt Mary.”
The dog whined, then attempted to wriggle his massive bulk into his master’s lap. Dan pushed his muzzle away. “Phew! Chances are she doesn’t smell like you, either.”
Colby bared his teeth in a grin.
Dan laughed. “You won’t think it’s so funny when we reach San Francisco and you get a bath.” He considered the stalled traffic. “That’s assuming we get across the bay.”
A fully loaded semi had jackknifed across both lanes of the westbound bridge and wedged in tighter than a cork in a genie’s bottle. The truck was to be dismantled for removal, the freight unloaded, and there appeared to be a debate as to which part of the process should be completed first.
He smiled at the speed with which the shock wave of information ran down the line of commuters. Many spilled from their cars to chat. A few lounged on their hoods, faces raised to the warm March afternoon sun. A pair of students in Stanford jerseys zipped a fluorescent orange Frisbee between the cars with all the ferocity of Kamikaze pilots.
Dan shook his head when he realized he’d pushed his old life behind him far enough to find amusement in the scene. He’d come a long way in the past year. Was it far enough? He’d been happy—well, content enough—with his solitary lifestyle…until his aunt tracked him down in Florida a couple of weeks ago.
She’d convinced him she and his mother needed him in California through June. However, he’d had three thousand miles to wonder if his temporary return to the rat race might prove to be the biggest mistake of his life. His impulse to turn the truck around had grown with each passing mile and he wondered if this traffic snarl was his last chance to save himself.
He certainly couldn’t complain about his first glimpse of San Francisco Bay. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. The sun stirred bright color into the murky waves and streaked light across mirrored office buildings on the opposite shoreline. A light, salty breeze gave wing to a variety of raucous sea birds over his head and teased long tendrils of toffee-rich hair out of his brunette’s French twist.
Desire coiled deep in his gut as he watched her wiggle her bottom onto the hood of her car. With one hand resting on the driver’s side mirror on the open door, she
talked briskly into her phone, her expression hidden behind sunglasses. The straight lemon skirt and fitted jacket she wore accentuated her rich, dark hair, full breasts, and slender waist. Spiked heels showcased legs long enough to fuel a man’s fantasies for months. Her hand waving in emphasis to whatever point she was making spoke to Dan of urgent caresses and wild passion.
The blend of cool professionalism and hot sensuality fostered the illusion a man only had to peel away one layer to expose the passionate woman beneath. He’d never seen a woman who made him feel so needy, so primitive, with barely one look…which is why he hadn’t bothered to pursue a woman since Charlotte Betham opted for her career over him last year. He might have made an effort to change her mind if she’d turned his crank this way!
Only a caveman would dream of ripping the phone from his lady’s hand. Only a cretin would throw it into the bay before he dragged her away to his cave for a year or two. Only a sex-starved man would allow such idiotic impulses to get out of hand.
“Maybe Aunt Mary dragged us back to civilization in time.” Dan scratched behind his dog’s ears. “Maybe I should go out on a date or two while we’re here. Take the edge off.”
Colby barked, and then rested his muzzle on the dashboard, pointing the way.
“No, it won’t be with my sexy brunette.”
The last thing Dan needed in his life was another career woman to tempt him back to the competitive edge like the one he’d ridden in Chicago. He’d leaped off that fast track without a backward glance—nearly dying did have a way of changing a man’s perspective, after all—but he could still spot a workaholic when he saw one. He’d lived with one all his life. First, his father. More recently, Charlotte and himself. And since he didn’t know yet if he’d beaten that particular inclination, once and for all, he wasn’t taking any chances.
The odd thing about chance, though, was the way it tended to come up and slap him when he wasn’t looking. Dan stared with consternation at the bright orange saucer veering out of control across his vision, aimed directly for his brunette. “Watch out!”
He jumped from the truck in time to see the rigid plastic disc slam into her right cheek with a sharp thwack, angle over her head and disappear over the bridge railing into the bay. Her cell sailed right behind it.
Dan sprinted in her direction but she’d fallen off the hood of her car and slumped to the pavement, her back settling against the front fender before he could reach her. Kneeling, he placed a hand on her shoulder. “Are you all right?”
She didn’t respond.
“I didn’t mean to hit her!” The Frisbee thrower squatted next to Dan and watched him remove her cracked sunglasses. “Oh, man, she’s out cold.”
Dan clamped a lid on his own spike of concern and thrust both hands into the woman’s silky twist of hair. In the time it took him to run from his truck he’d seen her fall against the side mirror on her downward slide, and then ram her head against the open car door. So, it came as no surprise when he located a sizable lump over her left ear.
He examined the welt rising on her cheekbone, his curse short, succinct. Her head cradled in his hands, he brushed his thumbs against her temples. “Can you hear me?”
The woman’s eyelids fluttered, lifted. “W-What happened? H-Harry? Where’s Harry?”
Who the devil was Harry? Dan gazed into cinnamon brown eyes fogged with confusion and experienced a surprising surge of possessiveness. He couldn’t drag his hands away from her fast enough. “If Harry’s the one on the phone, I believe he’s now conferencing with the sharks.”
“Oh. Oh! He’ll kill me!” She shifted, wrinkled her nose in obvious bewilderment at the sight of her legs stretched in front of her. “Why am I sitting on the ground?”
The student piped in. “My Frisbee hit you. You fell.”
Dan frowned. A concussion wasn’t out of the question. Although her pupils didn’t appear unequal or dilated, there was a large goose egg behind her ear and a welt across her cheek that grew more red and ugly by the minute. He searched his brain for the standard questions used on concussion victims. “What’s your name, and who’s the President?”
“Tess Emory, and Stuart Webster.”
“One out of two isn’t bad,” he murmured. For all he knew, Tess Emory wasn’t her name either.
“Oh, man, she doesn’t know—”
Dan glared the student into silence, motioning the kid to her other side so they could both help her to her feet. “Which is which?” he asked, aware he needed to keep her talking.
“I’m Tess.” She wobbled on her spiked heels. “The president’s Webster.”
Dan quickly calculated the distance to the camper in the back of his truck. “I think we have a problem. Webster is not President of the United States.”
Her eyes widened. “Oh. Wait. I thought you meant the president of my company!” She assured him she did indeed know her country’s president. “Now I know two presidents’ names and my own, but I don’t know your names.”
The student introduced himself and apologized for her injuries. He wanted to share his doctor’s phone number but, when she refused his assistance, he shrugged and walked off to rejoin his buddy sitting on the hood of their car.
Which left Dan where he shouldn’t be now that the danger had passed…overwhelmed by the appeal of toffee hair, cinnamon eyes, and spicy scent. Gasping for air like a wide-mouth bass in the bottom of his boat. Alone…with his brunette.
“And,” she said, “your name?”
“Daniel McDonald.” His fingers itched for more contact with her satiny skin, if only to shake her hand. He opted to tuck his hands in his pocket instead. “Now, you know five.”
“Names. Two presidents, yours, mine, and Frisbee Killer over there.” He nodded at the student. “That makes five.”
“Six. You forgot Harry.”
As far as he was concerned, Harry could commune forever with the sea anemones. However, the reminder of this woman’s single-mindedness also tempered Dan’s lingering response to her. Not that he appreciated it. “Why did you say he’ll kill you?”
“That’s his phone resting at the bottom of the bay. I don’t imagine he’s too pleased thinking I hung up on him, either.” Tess tentatively touched her cheek, winced. “I need to call him back. May I borrow your phone?”
“I don’t have it on me,” he said thinking of where he’d last seen it. To break his final connection with the world he’d left behind, he’d tossed the phone into a storage box along with everything else. “Let’s take care of your injuries first.” Dan eyed the welt marring her delicate skin, the bruise already forming on her cheekbone. “How bad does that feel?”
“The way my head’s pounding, I guess I’m lucky to feel anything.” She peered at her face in her damaged side view mirror. “Sweet mercy, I’ve got a meeting in twenty minutes! I can’t go in there looking like this!”
Dan hated to burst her bubble. “I heard on the radio it might be a couple of hours before this accident is cleaned up.”
“Please,” Tess straightened, “tell me you’re joking.”
The haunted look shadowing her eyes was familiar. He’d seen it in the mirror, millions of years ago, before he came to his senses and dumped his stressful career, pristine penthouse, and empty lifestyle. This woman was wound entirely too tight. It was only a matter of time before she snapped under the strain. “I’m sorry. We’re stuck here until further notice.”
“I’ve got six suits waiting for me.” She threaded her fingers through her hair and yanked pins out, stuffing them into her jacket pocket with all the intensity of a search-and-destroy mission. “I can’t be stuck here!”
He was surprised when she punctuated the last word with a stamp of her foot, and even more intrigued by the flush which bloomed under her skin when she realized what she’d done. He’d known his share of businesswomen with tempers, but businesswomen who blushed?
“I can’t believe I did that,” she said, faintly.
Bending over he quickly picked up her heel, snapped off her right shoe in her flash of temper, and then arched an eyebrow at her. “I’d be happy to jump up and down, too, if you think it would help.”
Tess ducked her head on a small laugh. “Thanks for the offer, Mr. McDonald. I don’t think that’s necessary.”
“Daniel.” He barely touched her palm when he laid the heel in her hand, and a blast of sensual heat struck him so hard he nearly groaned out loud. “Call me Dan,” his voice rough, “since we appear to be neighbors.”
She looked in the direction he indicated where his pickup camper sat in the next
lane. “Welcome to the neighborhood.”
“Thanks. I think I’ll like this one.” He hadn’t reached San Francisco yet but, if Tess was representative of the women he’d find there, he was going to be one happy camper for the next three months.
No! He reeled in his runaway hormones. You’re going to be pretty damned lonely. No workaholics, remember?
As if able to read the rejection on his face, she looked away toward the wide, open space of the bay beyond the bridge. Then, she pressed a trembling hand to her forehead and swallowed convulsively. “You’ll have to excuse me. I need…to lie down. I feel diz—” Her knees buckled.