Availability date: 12/18/2015
Crown princess of the town's most influential family, Candace Hart has been in love with Neal Barrows half her life. Now, following a failed marriage, she's decided to do something about her feelings. Intensely private, high school football coach Neal tries to live down the scandal of his mother's many affairs. He may desire Candace, and damn her for making him want her, but believes he has nothing to offer other than the short-term pleasure of a shared bed.
When his character is called into question, Neal attempts to protect Candace from any smear of gossip by ending their affair, denying how much he wants to have her as a permanent part of his life. Will Neal realize he's the perfect catch for Candace before it's too late?
“I have no business being here.”
Candace turned away from the oven and stared at him for one long, heart-stopping moment. Even before she lifted her chin, before she said a single word, he admitted he faced trouble.
“Then tell me why you did come here, Neal.”
He considered lying, if only to protect her. To protect himself. He chose evasion rather than truth.
“It was just wrong for me to come here this late.”
“Why?” Candace asked again.
Tossing aside the potholder she walked toward him. Neal took a step in retreat. He didn’t like the look in her eye, nor that slight curve to her lips. Certainly he didn’t like the way he watched her body move as she advanced toward him. He took another step backward.
“You said earlier today you would come to me tonight,” Candace said. “You said earlier today you didn’t want to stay away any longer.” She took another step to bring them closer. “You said you couldn’t.”
“Damn it, Candace,” he yelled, both in anger at her throwing the words—his words—back at him and in defiance of the need welling up inside of him. More than his next breath he wanted to close the small distance that bridged between them and take everything she offered. Take everything his heart and body wanted, craved, needed.
“Think about where I’ve been.”
“At the hospital, helping a boy you care about?”
“At the hospital, sitting beside a boy who’s just learned his mother has been beaten half to death by her boyfriend.”
Neal drew in a rattled breath, barely noticing his legs bump into the kitchen table. He’d felt so damned helpless as he sat beside Corey, the way he’d felt so often during his own childhood. He’d never seen his mother beaten, but he knew she allowed herself to be used by men. He knew she’d used men in return for her own needs and desires, physical and otherwise.
“You understand him.”
“I am him!” Neal shouted.
“No, you’re not,” Candace answered back, her voice soft, not with condescending sympathy but with a grasp of how it felt to want to go beyond your past. How she understood that he couldn’t figure out.
“Damn it.” Desperate to rattle her, he grabbed her arms, shook her. “This will never work.”
Her chin lifted, her eyes all but glowed with a stubborn determination he’d never seen before.
“Yes, it will,” she whispered even as her hands settled at his waist, as her body arched to press against his. A glimmer of satisfaction and pure feminine power intensified the little hum in her throat as she felt the unmistakable evidence of his desire for her. “You just have to want it badly enough. You have to want me badly enough.”
“Do you, Neal?” She rose on her toes and slid her arms up his chest to wrap around his neck. She brought her mouth within a breath of meshing with his. “Do you want me badly enough?”
“You don’t know what you’re asking for.”
Her chin lifted an inch higher. “Show me.”
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