Making the first move, p.1

Making the First Move, page 1

 

Making the First Move
 



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Making the First Move


  Making the First Move

  By Reese Ryan

  Big promotion, complete with $300 pen? Check.

  A hot man who cuddles, spends the night and makes breakfast? Check.

  Waiting for the other shoe to fall? Check.

  “If it feels too good to be true, it probably is.”

  Five years of obsessing over her career pays off when Melanie Gordon gets a promotion that could make or break her. But the new job takes her back to her hometown to face the family she’s distanced herself from, and forces her to leave behind sexy, mysterious philanthropist Raine Mason, who just might be the man of her dreams.

  By the time Raine makes his move with Melanie, her one-way ticket to Cleveland is booked. He convinces her to take a chance on him long-distance, but can’t yet trust her with the whole truth about himself.

  Raine and Melanie slowly peel back each other’s layers (starting with his bicep-hugging sweater). She is finally ready to give her heart to him...until she learns the dark secret of his past. He’ll have to prove to her that love is worth the risk.

  94,000 words

  Dear Reader,

  Welcome to our July lineup of books! If I’m not on the beach somewhere while you’re reading this, there’s something wrong with life (unless you’re reading this in December—in which case, I hope I’m by a fireplace with a cup of hot cocoa in my hand). But no matter where you are while you’re reading this, I can tell you one thing: you’re in for a treat. (Sure, I say that every month, but it’s always true!) This month brings a fun mix of returning authors and debut authors, with fun, contemporary beach reads, some troublesome dragons, a few steps back in time, and characters in a race against time and a fight for their lives.

  Let’s kick off with the perfect beach read. Make sure you pick up Christi Barth’s Love at High Tide. Beach reading doesn’t get much better than this. It starts with a beach rescue, continues with a beach romance, and has sun, sand, sexual tension and two characters you will love.

  Maybe the beach isn’t your thing in the summer, but baseball is. Take a peek at Alison Packard’s The Winning Season. After hitting rock bottom, bad-boy catcher Matt Scanlon is traded to the team he’s loathed since boyhood, and he must confront a painful incident in his past before he can rebuild his life and his career. Once you’ve fallen in love with Matt, go back and read Alison’s debut romance, Love in the Afternoon.

  Continuing in the contemporary romance genre, we have party planner Tess, who can’t believe that hotel manager Jeremy could possibly be interested in her. She’s everyone’s BFF, not friends-with-benefits material. But he’s got more than friendship on his mind in Kate Davies’s Life of the Party, book three in the Girls Most Likely to... series.

  Maybe you like your romance with a side of suspense? If so, check out Anne Marie Becker’s Deadly Bonds, and Betrayed by Trust from Ana Barrons. Two romantic suspense books, four characters in fights for their lives.

  Or maybe you like your romance with a large helping of sexy times? If so, Lynda Aicher’s Bonds of Desire is the book for you. Lawyer Allison English never planned to return to The Den—despite her naughty fantasies about being bound by owner Seth Matthews. But when club guest Tyler Wysong is injured in a scene, Seth turns to Allie for help. Aroused by both men, Allie should turn the case down. But she can’t...

  Joining Lynda in the erotic romance category this month are two male/male titles. First up is His Roommate’s Pleasure by Lana McGregor. Adam had no idea that his jock roommate was gay—and into leashes, paddles, and domination. And Adam, an inexperienced virgin who’s only ever kissed one guy, is surprised to find himself curious about submitting... Then Samantha Ann King returns with the follow-up to her debut romance, Sharing Hailey. In Waiting for Ty, too many beers and four long years of denying their feelings for each other thrust two men together in a lip-lock and a night of no-holds-barred sex that forces them to confront their greatest love and their deepest fears.

  In Sky Hunter, the third and final installment of Fae Sutherland’s male/male space opera romance series, Skybound, the Crux Ansata’s brash and rebellious ship mechanic, Jeret, finds himself face-to-face with a dangerous past he never thought to revisit—and the only man he has never been able to forget.

  Looking for more books in the paranormal category? Start with Ruth A. Casie’s The Guardian’s Witch and Desperate Magic by Rebecca York. And for fans of historical romance, in Georgie Lee’s Hero’s Redemption, a widow and a war hero brought together by a scheme must learn to trust one another and accept the tragedy that links them in order to find love. Meanwhile, historical romance author Susanna Fraser, who can always be counted on to deliver a unique and unusual historical romance, returns with A Dream Defiant, in which a black British soldier marries a beautiful English war widow, but he can’t believe she wants him for himself, and not merely as her bodyguard and protector.

  This month Carina Press is pleased to announce three debut authors. Mystery author Patricia Hale will grip you by the throat with her suspenseful story of retribution, In the Shadow of Revenge. As children they witnessed horror and created a pact, as women they planned their revenge and waited.

  Also debuting this month is Reese Ryan, with Making the First Move. When ambitious HR exec Melanie Gordon falls for sweet, sexy philanthropist Raine Mason, she discovers that his selflessness is driven by a dark and tragic secret that threatens to keep them apart.

  And joining Carina Press with her Golden Heart–winning paranormal romance is debut author Lorenda Christensen. Fans of Katie MacAlister’s Aisling Grey and Light Dragons series will want to check this one out, and so will any fans of fun paranormal romances featuring dragons and heroines with a bit of backbone. In Never Deal with Dragons, the first in a new series, a human mediator bites off more than she can chew when she agrees to partner with an ex-boyfriend to stop a war between two dragon monarchs.

  I hope you enjoy all of this month’s new releases. There’s certainly a variety to choose from, to keep you occupied no matter what your summer (or winter) activity.

  We love to hear from readers, and you can email us your thoughts, comments and questions to generalinquiries@carinapress.com. You can also interact with Carina Press staff and authors on our blog, Twitter stream and Facebook fan page.

  Happy reading!

  ~Angela James

  Executive Editor, Carina Press

  www.carinapress.com

  www.twitter.com/carinapress

  www.facebook.com/carinapress

  Dedication

  For my grandmother, Leila Lewis, a sassy old broad long before they came into vogue.

  Acknowledgements

  We are the sum of our experiences, good, bad and indifferent. I’m grateful for the people, places and experiences that have shaped my life and fueled my abilities as a storyteller.

  Thank you to my parents for introducing me to a passion for the written word. To my husband and son for their love, patience, encouragement and support. To my ‘YaYa’ sisters for your love and friendship now, and way back when. To Jack DeVeaux and John Flanagan, brilliant storytellers and insightful critique partners. To Tonie Jones, T.L. Champion, Alissa Vaughn, Lynn Turner and all of the amazing women who’ve been my biggest cheerleaders but were never afraid to give me a swift kick when I needed it. To the women behind All Things Girl for challenging me and inspiring me with your courageous, authentic stories. To the Coffee Club and my favorite Diet Coke addict, it was worth every bump and bruise just to meet all of you. You’re all fabulous. Don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise.
To the members of the generous online community of writers who’ve served as mentors, cheerleaders and advocates during this thrilling journey.

  To my amazing editor, Rhonda Helms, thank you for rescuing this story from oblivion and helping me to breathe life into it. You’re equal parts talented, brilliant and funny.

  Contents

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Chapter Fifteen

  Chapter Sixteen

  Chapter Seventeen

  Chapter Eighteen

  Chapter Nineteen

  Chapter Twenty

  Chapter Twenty-One

  Chapter Twenty-Two

  Chapter Twenty-Three

  Chapter Twenty-Four

  Chapter Twenty-Five

  Chapter Twenty-Six

  Chapter Twenty-Seven

  Chapter Twenty-Eight

  Chapter Twenty-Nine

  Chapter Thirty

  Chapter Thirty-One

  Chapter Thirty-Two

  Chapter Thirty-Three

  Chapter Thirty-Four

  Chapter Thirty-Five

  Epilogue

  About the Author

  Copyright

  Chapter One

  Damien Jasper is brilliant and asshole in equal amounts, wrapped in one stunningly handsome, well-dressed package. And he’s headed directly toward me.

  This cannot be good.

  There are only two reasons Damien Jasper visits the peons this early in the morning. He’s in hot pursuit of a new female employee, or the building is on fire. We haven’t hired anyone new, and the building isn’t on fire. So I’m pretty sure I’m screwed.

  His intense eye contact is unnerving. Especially since Damien’s idea of eye contact usually lands somewhere in the vicinity of my boobs.

  “Good morning, Ms. Gordon.”

  I force a smile. You’d think shoving your tongue down a woman’s throat would give you the right to call her by her first name in perpetuity. But the rules in Damien Jasper’s world are pretty hard to follow. “Good morning, Damien.”

  “When you’re done with your phone call, please come to my office.” The muscles in his face barely stir. His voice is a deep, low rumble.

  My shoulders tense and a hard knot forms in my gut. I nod and force a smile so stiff it’s more of a grimace.

  Damien turns on the heels of chestnut-colored loafers that cost more than my rent.

  My heart is beating a mile a minute. I’ve completely forgotten I’m on the phone.

  “Melanie? You still there?”

  I take a deep breath and nod. “Sorry. Yes, I’m here. I’ve got, like, three minutes.” I look at my watch. “What’s up?”

  Raine clears his throat then attempts to speak. His words come out too fast and at least two octaves higher than his normal speaking voice, like an old vinyl record that’s been sped up.

  “What was that?”

  “Sorry, I just...I wanted to talk to you about...” He sighs. “You know what, you’re busy. We should do this later.”

  “Why don’t I give you a call later tonight or over the weekend?” I watch as the elevator door closes behind Damien.

  “Okay—”

  “Great. I really have to go. Talk to you later.”

  As I return the phone to its cradle, my glass of water topples over. Thank God only my copy of the San Francisco Gazette gets wet. I toss the paper in the trash and take a deep breath. My hands shake like crumpled, brown leaves barely clinging to the trees at the end of fall.

  Damien Jasper’s late-night trysts with overeager female employees are legendary here at Jasper & Graevel. A fact I wasn’t privy to that late night two years ago, when I was invited to accompany him to a client dinner.

  We nailed our pitch over dinner and snagged the new client. Damien, in turn, tried to nail me. I’d had a drink or two more than I should have, at his urging, but I wasn’t drunk enough to believe that screwing the company CEO wouldn’t end badly. I politely extracted his tongue from my mouth, inserted my knee into his crotch and excused myself from the elevator we’d been sharing.

  Jasper & Graevel is a major player in my industry. So rather than raising hell over the incident, I chose to ignore it and hoped Damien would do the same. For the past two years we’ve nodded politely and exchanged pleasantries whenever the situation required it. Still I’ve always had this nagging feeling that one day Damien would exact his revenge. That day, I fear, is today.

  My throat is parched. Wish I had that damned glass of water. I survey my cubicle. Maybe I should box up my things now, rather than suffer the humiliation of stuffing my things in a box while two impatient rent-a-cops hover over me. Legs wobbling, I climb to my feet and take small, wooden steps toward the elevator.

  “You’ve done it this time, Gordon.” Priscilla Cohen, Miss Prissy when she isn’t in earshot, leans against the outside of her cubicle, one hand on her waist. She arches her back to provide us all with a proper view of the size-D cups acquired during her last “vacation.” Her walking-stick-thin frame strains to hold them up.

  I pretend not to hear her, but Priscilla is part pit bull, part crazed stalker. She will not be ignored. She steps into the center of the aisle, her arms folded over her chest.

  “I told you not to hire that fat guy. He could barely talk for all that damn wheezing.” Priscilla hunches her shoulders and imitates Edmond Bennett, the man to whom she’s referring. She draws snickers from a few occupants of nearby cubicles. I garner looks of pity from a few others.

  My cheeks sting, but I’m compelled to defend my candidate. My eyes lock with hers. “Mr. Bennett was a solid candidate with impressive credentials. I haven’t had a single complaint about him or any of my other placements.”

  A menacing smile spreads across Priscilla’s face. “Until today.”

  I sneer and push my way past her. Priscilla teeters on her four-inch heels and grabs the cubicle wall to steady herself. I conceal a wicked smile and nod to acknowledge mental high-fives doled out by a few of my coworkers. If this is going to be my last day at Jasper & Graevel, I’m going out with a bang.

  I punch the Up arrow. The elevator doors creak open. I step inside, half expecting the floor to give way and send me careening down a tube into the basement—where J&G rejects belong.

  I press my back against the wall to steady my legs. Forget wispy-winged butterflies. I’ve got a frickin’ Cirque du Soleil performance happening in my belly and I’m afraid I might lose the raspberry Danish I had for breakfast.

  The elevator jolts to a stop and does a little bounce. Marilyn, Damien’s assistant, buzzes his office and whispers into the receiver as I approach.

  “Hi, Marilyn.” I press my lips into a feeble smile. “I’m here to see Damien.”

  “Yes, I know, dear.”

  I fight the urge to fling myself at her feet and plead for information.

  “Have a seat. He’ll be out when he’s ready for you.” She gestures to an arrangement of chairs covered in buttery leather.

  “So this is where they keep the good chairs.” A high-pitched hyena laugh escapes my lips. I clear my throat. “Thanks, Marilyn.”

  She tells me he won’t be long then hurries down the hall.

  I squeeze my eyes shut, take a deep breath and think of things that make me happy. Things like keeping my job.

  “Ms. Gordon
, I see you made it. I’m not interrupting your nap, am I?”

  My eyes widen then blink with the steady rhythm of a motel vacancy sign. I shake my head, unable to speak. Damien leans against the door frame. Impatience flickers behind his azure eyes and settles in the lines around the edges of his mouth. I spring to my feet, nearly covering the distance in a single, awkward leap.

  Damien furrows his brow as he gestures for me to go inside. My boss, Jane Fisher, sits on the far end of a gorgeous sofa draped in pale green Italian silk. The thump of my heart fills my ears.

  “Hi, Jane.”

  “Have a seat, Melanie.” She pats the cushion beside her.

  My legs grow heavier, as if steel ball bearings are embedded in the soles of my shoes and an industrial magnet is underneath the floor. I sit, leaving a safe distance between us.

  Damien takes his place behind his desk in a chair that could double for a throne if the Royal Family were to visit. “Ms. Gordon, have you any idea why you’re here?” His fingertips and thumbs are pressed into a perfect triangle.

  “No, sir.”

  Damien’s piercing blue eyes search mine for a moment. He leans back in his tufted leather chair with his elbows perched on the padded armrests. “Barrington Hathaway called me to say you did an exceptional job with his recent executive search.”

  “How nice of him.” The CEO of Hathaway Products paid me a compliment? Sweet. My shoulders relax.

  “Genevieve Trizzelli called earlier this week to say essentially the same thing. She’s very impressed with you.” Damien leans across his ginormous cherrywood desk and peers at me. His fingers are pressed into that triangle again. “So, Ms. Gordon, what do you think of that?”

  “I’m flattered. I worked hard to make the best match for the clients and the candidates on both accounts. Still, I wouldn’t have expected such high praise from Mr. Hathaway or Ms. Trizzelli. They’re both quite...demanding, I guess is the best word.”

  “Is it?” Damien’s left eyebrow points sharply toward a dark curl that’s defied his hair gel by falling onto his forehead. “I prefer the term ‘pains in my ass.’ Of course, if you ever repeat that, I’ll deny it.”

 
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