She is an enigma wrapped in a little, blonde riddle.

Friday, May 22, 2015


It's been a while! Here's the shiny cover for Home Ice, out June 29th!

Also, I've got a limited edition Las Vegas Sinners tee available until June 1st! Get yours HERE!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Newsletter and Sinners Sale!

A newsletter seemed like the best way for everyone to keep tabs on Sinners news. It's delivered right to your inbox! I send one out on the first of every month, and you can find release info, swag opportunities, excerpts and more! Sign up HERE


If you have friends who aren't yet fans of the team, but you think they could be, now is the time to bring them into the fold! They can catch up on the series to date for less than six bucks!

On the Fly

Full Strength

Winning Streak

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Crosby, Cole, and All Star Ponderings

Happy All Star Weekend! I was sitting here, watching the skills competition and then the game and thinking it was missing something--Crosby. The Penguins are my team, so I'm a Sidney supporter all the way. Curious, I found an article saying he pulled out of the competition on Thursday after getting a lower body injury but was expected to be back on the ice next week.

I guess he's taken a lot of criticism for missing the All Star weekend. What I didn't know was he's missed all but 2 All Star weekends in his 10 year career, and one of those he attended was in the audience due to another injury.

I'm sure he has his reasons, and he deserves them. I've long been amazed by not only his hockey skills but his humility, poise, and sweet disposition. It intrigued me enough that I made a similar Sinners character--that's right, Cole ;-) This quote from the article was so spot-on for what Cole's facing in Home Ice:

"Being the best player on the planet means having the biggest set of responsibilities, from keeping your nose clean off the ice to promoting the game across the globe."

Imagine having that responsibility from age 18 on. It's really interesting exploring that in this book. Thoughts?

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Winning Streak Cover Reveal!

Are you ready for Madden and Saralynn? Winning Streak releases on November 24th, but you can pre-order it today HERE!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Modern Love Bundle

Snag these hunks at:

Beginning Again by Peggy Bird -- "a lovely book about hope, love, and starting over." -- WiLoveBooks.

“What the hell are we doing?” Liz Fairchild didn’t bother hiding her irritation from her ex-husband. “When I agreed to have lunch with you, I expected food and a martini, not a tour of Northwest Portland.”
“Bombay Sapphire is good gin but pouring it over a few ice cubes doesn’t make it a martini,” Mason Fairchild said with a grin, “even if you do throw in a couple olives. Although I’ve always been pretty sure you know that.”
“Po-ta-to, po-tah-to.” Dismissing his comment with a wave of her hand, she persisted. “Answer the question—where are we going?”
“You’ll see in a minute. We’re just about there.” After maneuvering his Mercedes around a streetcar stopped to pick up passengers, he pulled into a small parking lot behind what looked like a row of townhomes, nosed the car into a parking space and cut the engine. “This is it.”
“And what would IT be?”
“A live/work space a client of mine has on the market for a very attractive price.”
“If I knew what a live/work space was, that might impress me. But since I don’t, I’m back to asking why I’m not sitting at your favorite restaurant with a martini in front of me.”
“Patience has never been your virtue, has it?”
She pursed her mouth and cocked her head. “You of all people should know just how patient and understanding…”
“I apologize. You’re right.” He unfastened his seat belt and leaned over to do the same for her. “Just extend your understanding for another fifteen minutes and I promise there’ll be gin in your very near future.”

Destination Wedding by Robyn Neeley -- Destination Wedding by Robyn Neeley is a fun and very entertaining read that will keep you hooked till the very end.” -- Harlequin Junkie

“Kate, I was expecting you.” He chuckled and pointed to her side. “Do you need some help with that?”
Kate looked down in horror. She had forgotten to zip up her dress! Her lacy blue bra and matching thong strap were visible. She yanked up the side zipper. “You have something of mine,” she said icily.
“Your dress from last night. Here it is.” He pulled back the closet door and handed it to her. “Looks like they were able to get the tomato juice stain out. Good as new.”
“Thank you.” She clutched the dress and turned to leave. On impulse, she spun back around. “You know. You’re an ass.”
He smiled down at her. His smile was just as warm as it had been last night. “I’ve been called worse. Listen, Kate, we need to talk. Let me get dressed real quick. Why don’t you come in and have some champagne.”
Kate peered in. Next to him was a bottle of champagne chilling in an ice bucket and a glass plate of chocolate covered strawberries.
“I sent those to you and Lauren. There’s nothing to say. You, Drew Cannon, are my client. I don’t know what last night was about, but we will not be clinging champagne flutes unless it’s at your wedding!”
“Kate, you’ve got this all wrong. This isn’t what you think.”
“You commandeering my dress and posing as my boyfriend isn’t what happened?”
“Well, yes, but come in. I’ll explain everything. I think you’ll find it quite amusing.”
“There is nothing funny about my client being a lying, cheating schmuck.” She turned and headed back to her room.
The door slammed behind her.
“Kate, please stop. If you would just listen—”
She put her hand up to block his words. “Don’t follow me. I am only going to pretend to be nice to you because you are my client, and your wedding is going to catapult me to partner. I need this wedding to go off without a hitch.”
He swore under his breath.
“You don’t have to get nasty.” She pushed her keycard in and unlocked her door.
“No, it’s not you. I locked myself out.”
“Not my problem.” Kate entered her room and slammed the door.
“Kate. Come on,” he pleaded from the hallway. “At least let me borrow your phone to call housekeeping. You can’t leave me out here in a towel.”
“Consider it payback!” she yelled and peered out of the peephole. He had turned around. His beautifully sculpted backside was exactly as she had imagined. No tattoos, no scars. Pure perfection. Her nails would have a heyday…
Frustrated, she turned around and leaned against the door. So he has to go to the lobby in a towel to fetch a new key. He’d probably get some suggestive looks from women anxious to find out what was underneath it. That’s not payback. Her lips turned up in a devilish smirk. “But this is.” She gripped the door handle and flung it open.
“Thank you, Kate.” He started to enter. “I knew you wouldn’t leave me out here. I’ll only be a minute.”
“Not so fast.” She rested one hand on his chest and yanked off his towel with the other, leaving him naked. “I’ll just have this dry cleaned for you.”
She slammed the door and rolled up the towel, shoving it in the wastepaper basket. Now that was payback.

Drawn to Johan by Jennifer DeCuir -- "This book was absolutely amazing and I loved every bit of it.  I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to read about love, taking chances and family." – Night Owl Reviews

Jonah was standing at the sink with his back to Quinn. Or rather, with his backside to Quinn. She paused for a moment, enjoying the view. Until she realized that Jonah was looking at her reflection in the kitchen window. If she weren’t so mortified, having been caught checking out the handyman’s butt, she might have noticed the fact that he seemed to enjoy the attention.
 “Um,” she gestured at the gurgling coffeemaker.
“Yeah, I’d like some. Thanks.” Jonah grinned.
He peeked in on Lily, who was curled up on the couch, wrapped in Nanny’s crazy colored afghan. They sat down at the table, the silence awkward. Jonah looked agitated.
“There’s something I’ve been meaning to ask you,” he blurted.
There it was. Her instincts were spot on. She nodded.
“I’ve been trying to come up with the right way to ask this.” Jonah drummed his fingers on the tabletop, his expression sheepish.
He was going to ask her out! She had to tell him no. It wouldn’t work. But he was so good looking, such a loving father. He made her feel things she had no business feeling. Oh, what the hell—she’d go out with him. Just this once.
“Okay, here’s the deal.” He breathed deep and leaned in close. “I was hoping that you would...teach me to read.”
Wow, it must have been the paint fumes coming off his speckled T-shirt, because Quinn could have sworn that Jonah just asked her to teach him to read.

Falling for You by Heather Thurmeier -- “Falling For You is such a sweet, funny character driven story. All the characters may not be lovable, but I thought they were great, from the main cast to the smallest part. This story has one of the greatest endings I've read. I was swept away…” -- The Long and The Short of it Reviews

“Stay still, Corona,” she pleaded, patting the horse on the shoulder. She swung her leg over the horse, determined to successfully complete one dismount before the challenge ended.
Her arms shook as she lowered herself carefully from the saddle, finally giving up their fight part way down. Gravity took her the last few feet and she hit the ground with both feet, stumbling backward a step before bumping into something solid.
“How, Cassidy? How do you always end up in my arms?” Evan’s voice rumbled in her ear, his warm breath on her earlobe making her girly bits tingle.
She found her footing and turned in his arms. She could see the dust and dirt clinging to his five o’clock shadow, his brow beaded with sweat. He desperately needed a shower and there was nothing she could have fantasized about more than being in one with him. Instead, she pushed herself back from him and swallowed her urge to climb him like a jungle gym.
“What can I say? I guess I just keep falling for you,” she said, before her brain caught up to her mouth and she was able to censor herself.

Her Knight in Black Leather by J.M. Stewart -- "Great, fluid writing, sincere dialogue and loveable characters. I fell in love with this story, and I think you will too." – MsRomanticReads
A beat of silence passed, and Michael let out a heavy exhalation behind her, a sound of acceptance, defeat, dejection. He stepped up behind her, his warm, solid body pressing against her back, pinning her where she stood. Reaching around her, he opened a cabinet door, revealing a shelf full of glasses and mugs. “Because I was afraid.”

His words and the truth behind them settled into her core. She knew that feeling. Too well. “Of what?”

“What did you need from me last night, Cat?” His hot breath teased her neck, the sensitive skin below her earlobe, and images invaded her mind. Of his mouth latching on there, leaving his mark. The possessive look in his eyes when he plunged inside her body, claimed her as his. How simultaneously wrong and right it felt to be claimed that way. They were strangers, yet deep down, she couldn’t deny she gave him a piece of herself last night.

“I wanted the fantasy. You were a little wild, a little dangerous. A Harley-riding bad boy in black leather with a wicked gleam in your eye who challenged anyone to try to judge you.”

A faint chuckle sounded behind her, so infectious one corner of her mouth curled in response.

“You were everything I wanted to be and exactly the type of man I never go for.”

On the Fly by Katie Kenyhercz -- "Kenyhercz beautifully blends in hockey scenes that are a pleasure to read. Even if you aren't a hockey fan, you will be able to follow along with ease. With an engaging couple and action-packed hockey scenes, On the Fly delivers an enthralling story right up to the edge-of-your-seat climax and stunning romantic conclusion that leave you smiling." -- Lori of Lusty Penguin Reviews as posted on Jeep Diva Reviews

With a sigh, she glided over to where he waited. For good measure, she stuck out her arms and feigned a wobble. Can you ice skate? That was something of an understatement. Her father had gotten her a pair of ice skates as soon as she could walk. Carter didn't need to know that.
“You gonna make it?”
“I think so.” She came to a stop against the goal post and turned around to mimic his stance.
“Tell you what, I'll give you a head start.”
She just smiled.
“Down and back, okay? Ready, set, go!”
She took off like a shot, arms pumping, knees high, just digging into the ice with the sides of her blades. Behind her, shocked laughter echoed. Then it was replaced by the sound of his own skates. At the other goal, she skidded sideways in an awkward hockey stop and tried to regain momentum, heading back for the other end, but Carter had the experience, and he turned in two seconds. He passed her and pivoted to skate backward, adding insult to injury. She squinted at him and surged forward. Amusement played openly across his sharp features until he stopped and she didn't.
Jacey hadn't really considered the consequences of hurling herself at him. It seemed like a good idea at the time. And before she could reverse it, she collided against him with a solid thump. They spun in a circle, their legs tangled, and Carter fell backward. She had no choice but to follow.

Save My Soul by Elley Arden -- “Elley pens ‘Save My Soul’ in an unique and original plot that is full of hardships and romance with a touch of humor. With strong, well developed characters that had some great chemistry throughout, I fell in love with this book from the very first chapter.” - My Cozie Corner

Jordon didn’t stop at the end of the cart. He came around and grabbed her by the hips. “We’re done with this conversation. I’m not going to let you push me away because of your misguided notions and over analysis.”
Her mouth opened at his absurd insults. Before she could say a word, his fingers rested on her chin and he closed her jaw.
“Maggie, transference is bull shit. Freud was a flake. You shrinks like to wield power over weak-minded patients. I’m not weak, and I’m not your patient.” He slid his thumb across her bottom lip. “I do…feel exactly the way I said I do, but I won’t say it again until I’m damn sure you’re going to say it back. Until then, keep your shrink wrap away from my head. There’s enough going on in there without you digging around.”
Despite the hypnotic sensation of his thumb stroking her lip, she couldn’t keep quiet anymore. “I find you offensive.”
“No you don’t.”
Jordon leaned his face closer, and she swallowed. Her tongue reflexively brushed over her lip, tasting the tip of his thumb. He stepped into her, and she swallowed again, knowing his mouth would be covering hers in the middle of a busy supermarket. But the minute his arm wound around her waist, she didn’t care where they were. She wanted him to take what he wanted and leave her begging for more.

Spiraling by Rachel Cross -- "This book was filled with so much angst and turmoil that it was more than just a romance. The attraction between Shane and Amy was scorching, and Rachel Cross knows how to write a hot love story between tormented characters." -- Michelle from Ramblings from a Chaotic Mind

“Am I being played here?”Shane asked.
“I'm not going to try to take naked photos, if that's what you're asking,” Amy said.
He ignored the dig. “Why did you agree to go out with me?”
“You're hot,” she said, playing with a strand of hair, blinking up at him with her best princess smile.
“I think you're here with me for the same reason I'm with you.”
“Publicity,” he said.
She stilled. “Is that why you asked me out?”
“My agent encouraged it. He's in the throes of panic over my image,” he stated.
“He's the one who set up the . . .” she glanced around furtively, “lessons.”
“I need the lessons, obviously, but he's trying to kill two birds with one stone here.” Shane said.
So he was using her the same way she was using him. “Why me?”
“You have to ask? Amelia Astor, princess, New England blue-blood. You're the ideal woman to rehab my image.”
It was the way he said it. As though he would never in a million years be seen with her otherwise.
“And here you are just in time to resuscitate my contract with Enchanted Ice.” Amy raised her glass. “Cheers,” she said, without the slightest bit of pique reflected in her tone.
Goaded, she stretched out a hand and laid it, palm down on his rock hard, jean clad thigh, one finger tracing a pattern on the soft cotton. She leaned in and whispered, “I'm not incorruptible.”
He tilted his head back, and she watched his throat work as he finished his drink in one swallow and scooted closer. “No?”
“It doesn't have to be fiction, but I don't do fidelity,” he said as his long fingers tucked a strand of her blonde hair behind her ear and he shot her a half-smile that sent a throb of excitement through her traitorous body.

Sweet Gone South by Alicia Hunter Pace -- “Charming and clever with richly drawn characters and a heartwarming, sigh-worthy happily-ever-after, Alicia Hunter Pace is a natural-born storyteller.” -- Rhonda Nelson, New York Times Bestseller and National Readers’ Choice Award Winner

After five days on the job, Arabelle was batting about 50/50. Dr. Marshall Vines, Jr. had retired at the age of eighty-one and she had joined Dr. Marshall Vines, III in the practice.
There were a certain number of patients who had never been touched by anyone except “Dr. Junior” as they called him. They weren’t happy at the prospect of seeing his son, “Dr. Three,” but, Senator Avery’s daughter and Judge Avery’s sister or no, they were not signing up for some slip of a girl who ought to be getting her toenails painted and going to lunch.
Still, she was busy. This morning, she’d seen a sinus infection, a nasty case of the flu, and a stomach virus.
She scrubbed her hands especially hard after the stomach virus left. She’d always hated throwing up, but never more since Switzerland.
Her nurse bustled in.
“What have we got next, Kelly?” Arabelle turned and dried her hands.
“Semi-emergency needing stitches in room four. Dr. Three says he’ll take your ten o’clock if you’ll do it—says you’re better at that than he is.”
“Sure.” She walked down the hall behind Kelly. “This one is not going to rail at me because I’m not Dr. Junior?”
“I think he’ll be glad just to get immediate attention,” Kelly said with a laugh. “He walked in cold, of course.”
“Hence, semi-emergency?” To be honest, she didn’t really know what a “semi-emergency” was. She supposed bleeding, but not bleeding out.
And Arabelle opened the door to a full-blown, soul sucking, bleeding out emergency of the soul.
Will Garret sat on the examining table, his hand wrapped in a bloody towel. She should have been prepared for this—the seeing him, not the bloody hand. She had known she was bound to run into him, she just hadn’t imagined it here and now.
He looked up. How he managed to present her with that sweet smile was unbelievable. He was bound to be in pain. But there it was, complete with those distinctive dimples right under the impossibly high cheekbones. His dimples were not brief little indentions, like Luke’s and her own—angel kisses, Mimi had called them. No, they were deep crescent shaped dimples that she could have laid an index finger in if she dared to touch him.
And she was going to have to touch him, though not the dimples, not the deep cleft in his chin, and not his straight, fine, dark hair.
Kelly laid the chart on the counter. “The bleeding has almost stopped. Dr. Three gave him a quick look and said he didn’t see any nerve or muscle damage but for you to see what you think.”
Kelly seemed to be the only one capable of speech, which Arabelle did not think spoke highly for her own professionalism.
Will had not been expecting to see her either. His large, moss green eyes were wide with surprise—though he was more pleasantly surprised than she was. First, the smile; second, there was no fear in his eyes, like there was bound to be in her own.
“Hi, Arabelle,” he said in that rich, kind voice. Everything about this man was sweet and calm.
Though she’d just scrubbed her hands until they were practically raw, she turned to the sink and began soaping them again.

Wildly by Debra Kayn -- “I really could empathize with Shauna, I mean who hasn't had a crush on a hot older guy and of course making a fool of yourself over said older guy is a rite of passage. Debra Kayn has put together a compelling story that shows us love evolving and changing over time and in all facets of the lives of the main characters.” – My Reading Obsession

Grayson moved forward, making her retreat, walking with that lazy long stride that had the ability to hypnotize her. His gaze was so intent, her breasts hardened and she forgot why she was wasting her time arguing. His hair lay over his forehead in a sexy I-don’t-give-a-damn way that tempted her to reach up and sweep it back. But she didn’t. She couldn’t get that close.

The back of her thighs hit against the car, her breath barely coming through the constant throb of her body. “What are you doing?”

“I’m going to take what’s mine.” He lowered his head, hovering inches from her mouth. “I don’t care if I get it here, in the middle of Main Street, or if you come over to my house and let me have you there. But I’ll be damned if we’re gonna pussy foot around this subject any longer.”

“But … ”

He shook his head. “I’m done fighting, Shauna. I want you. You hear me? I want you as much as you want me. For as long as you want me.”

Oh my God. She forgot to breathe. She’d waited forever to hear him admit his feelings toward her, to confess it wasn’t her overactive imagination dreaming up a future with him. She sucked in air, filling her lungs. Everyone had thought her crush was one sided, but she knew better.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Winning Streak Sneak Peek

Chapter Six
Wednesday, February 26th
            A strip mall. Of all the high-end, over-the-top places to eat in Vegas, Saralynn Reese chose a strip mall. The same Saralynn who came to work in so many labels the designers should pay her an advertising fee. Madden sat in his Escalade and slid a hand over his jaw. It had to be a joke. She wouldn’t show. Indecision held him in place a few more seconds. His stomach growled. Date or no date, he needed dinner. He hauled himself out and beeped the car locked, feeling self conscious in a lot full of late model sedans.
            The inside of Lotus of Siam looked a lot different. Rows of polished wood tables gleamed under low, warm lighting, and the dark green carpet was a little faded but clean. It had a homey feel. And seated in the back, legs crossed and foot bobbing, sat Saralynn, twirling the straw in her water. The top half of her light brown hair was scooped up away from her face and secured with red chopsticks while the back half hung in loose curls over her shoulders. She wore a sleeveless, see-through white shirt with a red tank underneath and skintight white pants that ended just past her knees. But those shoes—shiny red, strappy sandals with spike heels—caught his attention. Feet held no special fascination for him before, but those shoes had him subtly adjusting himself on the way over.
            “This place is not what I was expecting.” He sat across from her at the small table for two against a mirrored wall.
            She wiggled her toes painted the same red as the shoes and shook her head at him. “If you always judge things by how they look, you might miss out on something great. It took me a while to learn that one. But now I’m taking chances on new experiences.”
            That observation struck deep. Most people judged him on the surface. To be fair, very few got to see underneath. The same seemed to be true for her. He weighed the pros and cons of asking if he fit into the new experiences category, but no sense pushing his luck. It was a huge surprise she’d said yes to begin with, and what the hell inspired the invitation anyway? Jacey had just finished telling him what a bad idea it would be to get too close to Saralynn, and practically the next thing he did was ask her on a date. As far as he’d come from his impulse-prone former self, apparently he still had a ways to go.
Every line in his arsenal seemed like it would fall flat with the vixen in front of him. When in doubt, compliment. “I’m all for new experiences. And I have to say, you look incredible tonight.”
She smiled then appeared to catch herself and gave him a wary stare. “Just so we’re clear, this is a thank-you dinner. Not a date.”
If that were true, what did she wear on a real date? The possibilities weren’t exactly the cold shower he needed. A server appeared and asked for their order.
“I’ll have the drunken noodle sea bass.”
Madden blinked and glanced at the menu. He’d never had Thai before and with only time to skim, half the offerings were a mystery. “Uh, that sounds good. I’ll have the same.” The server’s cheerful nod almost looked like a small bow before he left, and then they were alone again. “Okay. On this not-a-date, would it be all right to ask you about yourself?”
            Saralynn leaned back in her chair and studied the man across from her. Bright blue crew neck t-shirt with an over-sized purple plaid pattern on the shoulders under a streamlined navy blazer. Not his most casual look, but bolder than his office clothes. If she weren’t mistaken, this was date Madden. As formal as he got outside of a wedding or funeral. Somehow, it still said polished. Maybe because that t-shirt was probably just under two hundred dollars.
            He’d thought this was a date. Hard to deny that when she’d spent two hours getting ready after work. Her plan had been an old band tee, beat-up jeans and sneakers with a full ponytail. But God help her, she couldn’t leave the apartment like that when she imagined how good he’d look. The only compromise was putting half her hair up. Then the devil on her shoulder suggested the sexy chopsticks, and her last best intention came crumbling down.
            Now here they were, dressed up on their not-a-date, and he wanted to toe the line. Well, as long as they didn’t cross it. This was a dangerous game. “I guess a few questions would be okay.”
            The line of his shoulders relaxed a little, and he sipped the water she’d ordered for him. “I better make them good then. Tell me about what it was like growing up with Reese.”
            She smiled reflexively then frowned at him in suspicion. That was the second time he drew one from her so fast. He was good. “By the time I was five, he was ten, and hockey took up most of his time. I only remember about four good years with him before he went with Carter to a school in Minnesota. But he was my protector even when I didn’t want him to be. I was closer to him than my sisters. Still am. I was kind of a tomboy until my teens when I…blossomed.”
            “Into one hell of a rose.”
            “Thanks, but…I think I’m more remembered for my thorns.”
            His light blue eyes widened in a silent Do tell.
            She picked at the straw wrapper on the table. “That stuff’s not important.”
            “You think I’m going to judge you?”
            The corner of her mouth twitched, and she flattened her hands in her lap. “Okay, fine. Things came easily to me in high school. I was cheer captain and queen of every dance. I had a big group of followers but not a single friend. Not a real one. Guys were interested but assholes. So by the time I got to college, I stopped caring if they cared. I casually dated my way through the next four years and none of them even stand out in my mind. It wasn’t until I started working for the team that I saw how different things could be. How different I could be. And I never want to go back.”
            Whoa. None of that was supposed to spill out, but once the leak sprouted, she couldn’t stop. She pressed her lips together and studied the silverware.
            “I can’t say I know exactly how you feel. My experience was a little different. But I think the keynotes are the same.”
            That shouldn’t be a surprise given the last few days, but somehow it was. Most people couldn’t relate to her “charmed” life. Most people didn’t know the curse of it. Hell, neither did she—not really—until recently. For the first time, she met a date’s gaze and actually wanted to hear what he had to say.
            His eyes widened slightly, clearly surprised by the opening, and she bit the inside of her lip to hold back another smile. Madden took another a sip of his water. “Oh, okay. Well, I wasn’t enough of a joiner to be prom king, but I had my share of dates in high school. I got serious with a girl in college, but it turned out she wasn’t that serious about me. And I guess you now know everything there is to know about the Linden thing.”
            Saralynn did her best not to flinch. The Linden thing. She’d done some google stalking. Being fully informed was part of her job, and she couldn’t manage his media situation without knowing all the facts.  “Yeah, what’s up with that? What did you see in her? Not that I’m qualified to throw rocks, but she sounded kind of evil from what I read.”
            He looked down, tilted his head to one side and chewed on his lower lip. She beat down the crazy urge to hurdle the table and kiss it better. She’d hit a sore spot, but to his credit, he didn’t withdraw. When he met her eyes again, that trademark twinkle was tempered by regret, embarrassment, and just a little pain.
            “That’s a good question. I’ve asked myself that a lot. Definitely not one of my proudest achievements. I don’t know. At first, I guess I was swayed by appearance and attitude. She didn’t back down, and she went after what she wanted. And she really seemed to be into me. I thought we were starting something, but then she used me to get dirt on my sister. She apologized, but it didn’t mean anything. I thought about her from time to time, but I was finally letting go. And then I saw the wedding announcement.”
            The server returned with their order. After assuring him they didn’t need anything else, he left them alone again. Saralynn dug in to her dish, eating the greens off the top first. Some kind of reassurance seemed appropriate after his story, but that had never been one of her strong points. Best to let the moment pass. And she would have. If she didn’t glimpse him pushing around his noodles not out of distaste but discontent.
            “You know, she’s not the one that got away. She’s a bullet you were lucky to dodge. Seriously. And this is coming from a former hollow point.”
            His sad expression broke and crumbled away with a laugh and a grin that dropped her guard. “I don’t think you’re as bad as you think you are. Maybe we should give a real date a shot.”
            It felt so good to hear him say that. Too good. Was this what she wanted? Validation that she wasn’t as bas as she used to be? That she might be capable of something more? It didn’t take Allie’s psych degrees to know those things couldn’t come from another person. She shook her head and played it off with a smile. “You don’t want to get involved with me. I’m…‘Relationship napalm’ according to my brother.”
            “Reese said that? Not very nice.”
            “No, it’s not. But it is accurate. Or it was. I’m a work in progress.”
            Madden spread his arms in a Hello, me too gesture.
            “Okay, yeah, but that’s why we can’t date. Ever hear of the blind leading the blind?”
            “Or maybe we could encourage each other. Come on, who else fits this specific support group?” He was tenacious, she’d give him that. And exasperating. Before she could come up with a response, he poked again at is food. “So where are the noodles?”
            Avoiding rejection with a change of topic. Her mouth dropped open in a mix of amusement and admiration. When he looked at her innocently, brows up, she sighed. “The slimy things on the bottom that look like squid? Those are noodles.”
            “Man.” He made a face like a little kid looking at a plate of wilted broccoli. “You should write the menu description.”
            “They’re good. Try them.” As encouragement, she took a spoonful from her plate and licked her lips. “Mmmm.”
            He watched her mouth, and his Adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed. “You’re giving me other ideas.”
            She pointed her spoon at him. “Eat.” But now that he brought it up, those other ideas danced around her head too. Maybe it was the forbidden aspect, or maybe there really was something about him, but she couldn’t remember wanting someone the way she wanted Madden Vaughn. It just wasn’t going to happen.
            His shoulders drooped dramatically, and he pouted, which only made him cuter, damnit. But he picked up his spoon and tried a bite. Then another. “Hey, you’re right. This is good.”
            “Yeah. I come here once a week. Not just for the food but atmosphere.”
            “I can see that. This place isn’t so…Vegas.”
            “Exactly.” She ate some sea bass and watched him wrestle a piece of his out from between the greens and the noodles. Adorable. She was in so much trouble.