10:45 AM |
A classic romance just in time for Valentine’s Day!
EPPIE Finalist for Best Contemporary Romance: LOVE AT THE TOP
Author: Susanne Marie Knight
Genre: Contemporary Romance
UNWILLING TO LOVE AGAIN: Ever since her divorce, Cassidy Romanelli is reluctant to trust another man. A chance meeting with a bearded stranger, Alex Smith, causes her to have second thoughts. But when she finds out Alex is really her new boss, multi-millionaire A.E. Haydon-Smith, can she learn to trust her heart instead of her head?
THE WOMAN OF HIS DREAMS: On holiday before assuming his new position, A.E. Haydon-Smith meets the woman of his dreams only to discover she prefers his riffraff personae rather than who he actually is. Will he be able to win over the reluctant Cassidy and heal her wounded heart?
Returning to Alex's office at ten past six, Cassidy dragged herself through the door. She couldn't wait to slam her apartment door closed, peel off her dress, and flop onto her couch. Working this assignment, as well as trying to keep up with the demands of her regular job was slowly draining her reserves of energy.
But the real reason for her total exhaustion was trying to keep her emotions on an even keel around the finger-licking good Mr. Alex Haydon-Smith.
Oblivious to her surroundings, she dropped her handbag and kicked off her wing-tipped shoes. The feel of the plush carpet against her feet soothed her, and she headed for her desk. Just a few items to wrap up then she'd head for home.
"You look weary, Cassidy."
She jumped. Alex sat at his desk, his jacket off and white shirt sleeves rolled up. His forearms had an abundance of dark hair, which probably meant his chest also had....
"Cassidy?" He waved his hand close to her face to catch her attention.
She flushed. Bedroom thoughts were dangerous thoughts. "Um, hi. I thought you'd gone for the day."
Sinking into her chair, she brushed the hair off her forehead. He'd been working, too. His tie jammed into his pants pocket, he hunched over the desktop, scribbling on his ever-present yellow pad. The loosened collar on his shirt revealed curly black hairs. He looked endearingly casual. He looked like Alex Smith.
She picked up her cup of cold coffee and gulped it down. Goodness, but it was bitter. She shivered. She felt very vulnerable right now. Too vulnerable. Her defenses were weakening.
He leveled a pencil at her. "Go home, Cassidy. Get some rest." Leaning back in his executive chair, he stretched his hands behind his head. "By the way, where do you live?"
"You know where I live. You have my personnel records, remember?"
"Right. Queens." He flipped his pencil off the desk. "Want me to drive you home?"
She had to keep him at arm's length. After their understanding in the elevator, she didn't want to take any chances. Business and pleasure didn't mix. One-night-stands had a way of breaking hearts. Her heart had just recently healed, and she wanted to keep it that way.
Rubbing her temple, she stood. Forget this paperwork. She'd better leave now while her body still obeyed her. "Well, I think I'll go now. See you tomorrow."
Before she had a chance to turn, he was by her side, gripping her shoulders. "Why are you frightened of me?"
Her heart slammed against her ribcage. "Fr--Frightened? D--Don't be ridiculous." Without her heels, she felt so tiny next to him. She had to crane her neck to look up at him.
His voice turned husky. "I'll never hurt you, Cassidy. I promise you that."
He lowered his head, capturing her lips. At first his touch was soft, then he crushed her against his chest, burying his fingers in her hair.
She moaned. She couldn't deny her feelings any longer. Lifting up on her toes, she wrapped her arms around his broad shoulders and pulled him closer still. She circled small swirls on his back with the palms of her hands and sank deeper and deeper into love's abyss.
All sensations were pushed into the background, except for the frantic beatings of his heart and hers that became a wild primitive mating ritual.
Although her knees wobbled, he held her steady. He nibbled the sensitive skin of her earlobe, then trailed his lips down the curve of her neck.
A thousand electric vibrations pulsed through her. His sensuous kisses rocked her sanity. She'd never felt this way before, but, dear God, she wanted more.
"Cassidy." Alex whispered her name, sighing deliciously into her ear. Back to her parted lips, he swept his tongue inside her mouth.
Trembling, she let him take possession of her tongue, of her mouth. On its own, her head tilted back, as if seeking a soft bed to continue their lovemaking.
With a sudden movement, he lifted her up and carried her over to the black, cushioned couch. Gently placing her down, he brushed his lips against her cheek.
"Cassidy, I've wanted this since the moment I met you."
His warm breath fanned her face. She gazed up at him and saw his desire-darkened eyes. Those eyes fueled an untamed longing in her. She licked her lips.
For a fleeting second, a strange expression passed over his face, and she paused to analyze it. On his face was a look of victory, or of triumph. Like she was a conquest.
Conquest? Another notch on that damned gun belt? Anger pushed passion aside. Anger or self-preservation?
Slithering out from under him, she rose unsteadily to her feet. She held up both her hands. "I'm sorry. But I just can't...."
She had to get out of there, fast. By the drop of Alex's black eyebrows, she could tell Mount Haydon-Smith would erupt momentarily.
Maybe she couldn't blame him. She hadn't meant to tease. But then she hadn't planned on being seduced, either.
And she was nobody's conquest.
He sat up, a look of bewilderment in his blue eyes. "Cassidy, why?"
No words could get past her lips. Her throat had thickened and she couldn't speak. Shaking her head, she spun around, and as fast as she could, picked up her handbag and shoes, to beat a very hasty retreat
Hope you enjoy!
Susanne Marie Knight
Read outside the box: award-winning Romance Writing With A Twist!