Spunky artist manager, Jessica Stanton, isn't looking for love. She's looking for a savior. When a business rival steals yet another of her rising stars, she's in danger of losing everything she's worked so hard for…and the only person who can save her fledgling business is the one man she shouldn't want.
Art authenticator, Eli Marks, doesn't have time for love. He's too busy saving his brother from the demons of his drug addicted past. For the past ten years he's cultivated a façade to keep his distance from everyone else. But when a string of high-profile art forgeries threatens the security of the only family he has left, he must turn for help to a woman who breaks through his carefully constructed façade every time she's near.
Will Jessica and Eli save each other? Or will secrets and lies stop them from finding true love?
EXCERPT: (Warning: adult story-language)Jessica shifted uncomfortably under the scrutiny of the strange man's jade green gaze. Tsk Tsk Jessica, you're just horny from watching sex d'art. Poindexter isn't even my type. At least that's what she told herself. But she was powerless to tear her gaze away from his. With dark hair to contrast the jade green eyes, and an angled jaw to make male models jealous, he was handsome enough to draw any woman's attention.
But he wasn't her style at all. From the looks of him, he was way too buttoned up. His suit, though exquisitely tailored, was extremely conservative. Same for his shoes--expensive but bland. He screamed, I'm repressed. Except for his hair. Touching his collar and curling at the ends, it was the only non-conservative part about him. She preferred tattooed, too-skinny guitarist types. She was willing to bet Poindexter didn't have a tat anywhere.
All her misgivings aside, she couldn't tear her gaze from his as she pushed her way toward the bar. He looked like an accountant. No, strike that, too polished. Like a Wall Street type, except he didn't have the air of smarm. Maybe it was his too-direct gaze. There was nothing hidden in his eyes. Just interest and lust. And it made the hairs on her arms stand up. God, what was he doing staring at her? The uptight type generally preferred too-thin models with no hips. Oh, and normal. They veered away from alternative types.
As Jessica pushed through the crowd, his gaze followed as if he were silently drawing her to him, willing her to come to him. The way he insolently leaned against the bar made him even more appealing. When he said something to the bartender, she glanced at his companion. Also handsome, darker, more olive-toned skin, bulkier, too.
The green-eyed devil had the build of someone who worked out for the pure purpose of staying in shape, not to bulk up.
Jessica dragged in a breath to calm her racing heartbeat. She wasn't here for this. She was here for Samson Marks. Unfortunately, so was every other woman in the room. Some men, too. With everyone who wanted to talk to him, she'd already been waiting forty-five minutes, and she wasn't interested in waiting any longer. She'd just leave her card with Gabe and try and track him down if he didn't call by Monday. She wasn't letting this guy get away from her. If he could whip her into a sexual frenzy, he had something special.
When she momentarily lost sight of Poindexter, Jessica felt more like herself and less like a throbbing, heaving-bosomed mess. What the hell was wrong with her?
She finally made it to the end of the bar and made eye contact with the bartender. Over by the other end, she caught sight of her mystery man. She might be here to work, but what would it hurt to play a little? It had been a while. Okay, longer than a while considering the last two guys she'd dated she hadn't even bothered sleeping with.
“What can I get you?”
“Are you Gabe?”
He grinned. “You want to bid on the piece sight unseen?”
She grinned back. “Nope.”
He frowned. “You here to tell me I got a kid out there or something? 'Cause I'm not particularly interested in hearing that.”
“That happen to you a lot?”
“You'd be surprised.”
She laughed. “Tonight's your lucky night. I'm not here for that either. I need to get a message to Samson Marks.”
Gabe raised his eyebrows and nodded as if this wasn't the first request of this type he'd had tonight. “Yeah, what's the message?”
She handed over her card with a note scrawled on the back. “I'm a manager. Tell him to call me.” She shrugged and glanced at Poindexter again. “You can tell him he's safe from me. I have something else entirely planned for tonight.”
Moving away from the end of the bar, Jessica spotted the guy in the suit again and made her approach. “So are you going to stare all night, or were you ever going to come and talk to me?”
His lips twitched as he met her gaze. “Excuse me?”
Jessica raised a brow. “'Cause I gotta tell you, if you weren't so good looking, it would be borderline creepy.”
Poindexter barked a laugh. “Only borderline creepy?”
She shrugged as her eyes met his. “This is L.A. after all. There's a whole different definition of creepy.”
A small smile tugged at his lips. “Do you always say what's on your mind?”
“I know it's a little odd for L.A., right? But I find it cuts through the bullshit.”She looked around. “Is that your friend?” She nodded in Mr. Italian Stallion wannabe's direction. His bulky build and darker skin, combined with the gel he wore in his hair gave him a Jersey Shore effect.
The beefy guy grinned and his face transformed, making him look like a schoolboy with his first crush.
“I'm his only friend.”
“Well hello, friend.”
Friend smiled at her and said, “Hello, gorgeous. You going to cheer my friend up here? He's in a bit of a mood.”
This was fun. Go figure. Since Ryan's call, she'd been in freak out mode. This felt easy and natural. “Now why are you in a mood? There are a dozen women that are throwing you hungry eyes right now.”
He blinked as if her candor surprised him. “Too bad for them. I'm otherwise engaged.”
“Lucky bitch.”She grinned. “I'm appointing myself as your cheer up committee for the rest of the evening.”
There it was again. The corners of his lips twitched. If just a partial smile was enough to tantalize her, then what would it look like when this guy really grinned? Jessica pictured panties dropping in neighboring cities.
“What, you mean to tell me you don't have any friends here ready to rescue you from the creepy, staring guy?” His tone was teasing.
“I prefer to rescue myself.”
This time he did grin. And holy fuck, what a smile. Straight, even teeth. Eyes crinkling at the corners. Her own panties, if she'd been wearing any, would have started migrating south.
“You really will say anything, won't you?”
So this was what flirting felt like; it had been so long since she'd bothered. Man, she missed it. Nothing like flirting to heighten the anticipation. “You never did answer my question.”
“What question was that?”
“Whether or not you were going to work up the courage to talk to me.”
He chuckled. “I was working my way up to it, but I figured you might be trouble.”
“You were right about that. Lucky for you, I believe in taking matters into my own hands. Now, do I have to lead too, or can you dance?”she asked as she tugged him to his feet. Music thrummed and vibrated through Jessica's entire body. His big, warm hand wrapped around hers, and she shivered in anticipation.
This was something she could hold onto. Something she could use to drum out the annoyance at her mother, the insecurities of her job. The loneliness over losing Izzy. All of it. She could use the anonymity on the dance floor to combat the feelings she wasn't ready to confront.
Bodies of other dancers jostled her until she found a spot with enough space. Her partner looked unsure. She leaned in to make sure he heard her. “Relax, forget about them. All you need to do is concentrate on me.”
His intense green eyes focused on hers, and in a second of irrationality, she wanted to shrink from the feeling of intimacy. She didn't even know his name, but felt like he could see deep inside her.
“Am I going to get a name out of you?” As he leaned in, his breath warmed her, and his stubble chin rubbed against her temple.
She shivered. “Giving you my name would only ruin the spell.” And while he didn't look the type, he was still club crawling in L.A... He wasn't likely to give his real name anyway, so why pretend?
His lips twitched in that sexy way that made her stomach flip.
God, being that handsome should be a sin. Jessica studied him, confused about her reaction to him. Buttoned-up was so not her thing. She preferred tats and piercings and some good old-fashioned hair dye. But this guy set all her receptors to come and get some. Worse, something about him made her want to spill her darkest secrets.
“And if I want to call you tomorrow?”
She shrugged, even as his large hand landed on her waist, drawing her hips into his. “That's the thing about cheer up committees. You don't want to overuse them. It affects their potency.”
His eyes traveled her body and heat flushed her whole body. “Somehow I doubt that.”
Jessica met his eyes again. Once more, electricity crackled between them, and again she shut down the connection by turning in his arms to dance. The DJ changed tracks to the latest bass-pumping song by a female rapper, and Jessica let her partner meld their bodies together, enjoying the feel of him around her. For a moment, she let herself relax and enjoy the music.
When he gently turned her to face him, she tried to resist, but then he smiled.
They were jostled again, and he took her hand to lead her through the throngs into the back lounge area. The bouncer at the door greeted him like an old friend and said something she couldn't decipher. When they were let into the closed lounge area, the door shut, silencing the din from the club.
“What did you say to the bouncer to get us back here?”
“A magician never reveals his secrets.” He smiled again, and Jessica forgot her own name. “Besides, I wanted to be able to hear you. It was a little crazy out there. If you're going to be my personal cheer up committee, I'd rather it be quiet.”
Jessica chewed on her top lip and averted her gaze. He might look like Poindexter, but his thought process was right up her alley. “I couldn't have said it better myself.”
“I prefer it when I can see your eyes.”
She tried to avoid his gaze and swallowed around the lump in her throat. Intimacy was not on the menu tonight, at least not the emotional kind. If he kept insisting on seeing her and talking to her, he'd ruin her about-to-have-anonymous-sex buzz. And he was replacing it with something else that felt like nerves.
She searched through her cache of awesome one-liners for a flippant quip but couldn't think of one. The slow caress of his fingers at her lower back robbed her of the ability to think properly. Her instincts told her to bolt. Get out before he saw too much. Before he got a gander at her soul. Before he had the chance to run first.
She cleared her throat and made an effort to disengage. But he held her still. “You can run if you want to, but I have a feeling you want to find out if what you're feeling is as combustible as you think it'll be.”
“I--” She froze when his head dipped down to hers. Even though her brain gave the command to bolt, her body rooted itself in his arms. His body heat wrapped around her like flames. His scent mingled with hers, and the combination of citrusy musk, spice, and flowers made a potent combination. She swayed into him, and she sensed his smile of triumph. Before his lips met hers, one of his big hands scooted to the top of her ass and tucked her body flush against his. She gasped as she felt the full length of his arousal throbbing and pulsing against her belly.
On the parting of her lips, his mouth covered hers.
Other titles by Nana Malone:
About the Author:
USA Today Best Seller and iTunes Breakout Books author, Nana Malone's love of all things romance and adventure started with a tattered romantic suspense she borrowed from her cousin.
It was a sultry summer afternoon in Ghana, and Nana was a precocious thirteen. She's been in love with kick butt heroines ever since. With her overactive imagination, and channeling her inner Buffy, it was only a matter a time before she started creating her own characters.
While she waits for her chance at a job as a ninja assassin, in the meantime Nana works out her drama, passion and sass with fictional characters every bit as sassy and kick butt as she thinks she is.