Her Forbidden RiskAn Entangled Brazen Book
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Release Date: October 20, 2014
“Tongue, or no tongue?”
Emily Gardner fumbled with the interior car door handle. She blinked hard, then shot her best friend an incredulous look. “What?”
Chuckling, Andre LeMarque gave her a wicked grin, pushed open the passenger door, and climbed out of the rental convertible. “If we are to be a couple, I should know how far to take it.”
Oh, that. Emily exhaled a relieved breath and let herself out of the driver’s seat. In front of her loomed the house she dreaded entering. The house she’d grown up in and fled as quickly as possible the minute she’d turned eighteen. She’d been gone seven years, and she didn’t want to be here now. But her dad had finally gotten tired of Gran’s things laying around and demanded that if Emily wanted what she’d inherited, she needed to collect them or else he would give it all to Goodwill. So she’d traveled across an ocean, dragging her best friend along with her. Even her mother’s funeral hadn’t managed that feat.
“Did you not consider that?” Andre continued, amusement shining through what remained of his Parisian accent after a lifetime of London boarding schools.
No way would they be crossing those lines. With his perpetual disorganization and her need for tidiness, along with a handful of other mismatched traits, they were better off as best friends. Much better. But for this visit to Waddleston, Kansas, the hometown she despised, they were a couple.
But now, staring at the red-painted front door that screamed stop, Andre’s question floated away. Bitter memories surfaced: her father’s avoidance, her mother’s condescension, her brother’s unfaltering success. She swallowed hard and drew in a deep breath. It’s just a few days. You’re not that girl anymore.
A few days of packing, and then she’d be free of the inadequacy this small town made her feel and moving from London to Paris, preparing to open the interior design store with Andre. She could do this.
“Em?” Andre moved to her side, pushed his sunglasses into his thick dark hair, and cocked his head in concern. “Are you all right?”
“Would you care to explain again, why we are maintaining this, ah, charade?”
She let out a soft snort. “I’d rather not disappoint Dad again.” And if word got out that, contrary to the international media’s perception, she was not involved with the son of the world’s most renowned winemaker…well, once again, she’d make her dad’s list of failures.
Andre’s hand closed around her elbow, his grip comforting. “You need not prove anything to him or anyone else. If they cannot see you have changed, then they are not worth your time.”
She nodded, but before she could say anything else, the front door swung open. Her brother came down the top two porch steps. “Emmie! I thought I heard a car.”
Despite everything, warmth blossomed behind her ribs. Even though Derek had always been the “perfect” child, she’d missed him. Their occasional phone calls hadn’t quite filled the void, and she stepped from beneath the shade to meet him at the steps. “Hey, Derek.”
He spread his arms wide. “It’s been seven years. Give me a hug.”
Emily took a hesitant step into her brother’s embrace. Time had passed, but not so much that she could forget he’d rarely ever been on her side growing up. His hug was warm though, and for a moment she indulged in the comfort before hastily backing out of his arms. She gestured to where Andre stood, his hands tucked into his pockets, an air of casual indifference radiating off his posture. “Derek, this is Andre.”
Derek extended a hand with a friendly smile. “A pleasure, LeMarque. I’ve been a fan of your ’88 Chardonnay for years now.”
Emily smothered a smirk as the two men shook. Derek’s easy way of finding common ground with strangers wouldn’t work this time. Andre wanted nothing to do with his father’s vineyard. He barely even knew what a grape was.
Well…he knew--how could he not, having grown up in the business--but Andre preferred interior design. His sister, Raquel, was the vintner-to-be.
“Come in.” Derek led the way up the steps and pushed open the door. “I just finished laying the steaks out.”
Andre mounted the stairs, but Emily halted, one foot on the bottom tread. She shot her brother a questioning glance. “Is he here?”
A frown touched her brother’s blond eyebrows. “No. Dad had a Tree Board meeting tonight.”
“Why doesn’t that surprise me?” Same old, same old. She’d traveled over four thousand miles, and half of her had hoped he might be interested enough to greet her. The other half knew he hadn’t changed. She swallowed down the old familiar pain and trudged after them.
Derek gestured down the hall toward the living room. “Make yourselves comfortable. Want a Coke? A beer?”
“I’ll take a Coke,” Emily answered, as she gazed around the hall. Not much had changed since she’d last walked down the perfectly polished wood floor. Her mother’s expensive artwork still adorned the walls. Dust still failed to gather on the furniture--the maid must still be coming twice a week. And though her mother no longer lorded over the place, the house still felt every bit as confining as it had when Emily was seventeen.
With Andre on her heels, she entered the living room and perched on the edge of the cream-colored leather couch. He dropped into the seat beside her, leaned back, and tossed an ankle over one knee. “Am I allowed to say this house is very nice?”
She chuckled uneasily. “It was, once. Before Dad got elected to the House.” Then he’d never been home and everything became about appearances. Proper appearances. No individuality allowed. At least not according to her mother. And Emily had failed everyone’s expectations.
Andre’s arm slipped around her shoulders. “Your brother seems friendly enough.”
“Oh, he is. So long as we aren’t talking about me. Or anything I’ve done.” One corner of her mouth twitched with a half-smile as she turned to look at him. “We can’t all be perfect, you know.” But the amusement faded as a shudder rolled down her spine. “Ugh, it makes me itchy just sitting here.”
Strong fingers massaged into the base of her neck. “Relax. We will get your things, have them sent to our flat, and be back in London in no time.”
With a deep breath, she nodded. How she hoped he was right.
Andre leaned his head against hers and lowered his voice. “You’ve not answered. How far do you wish to take this charade?”
The bang of the back screen door, and a burst of masculine laughter snapped her upright. Her gaze darted to the hall, and she cocked her head listening. Not her brother. Not her father. Could it be…
Emily’s heart skipped erratically. Seven years had passed, but she’d never forget that voice. Mitch Taylor. She’d been so wrapped up in nerves about returning home that she hadn’t even considered running into Mitch. She should have--he and Derek owned a general contracting company together. And if she’d thought for a moment he would be here tonight, she would have put more effort into her attire.
“Yeah, she and Andre are in the front room. Here, take her this, will you?” her brother answered.
Andre nudged her in the side. “What am I missing?”
She managed a short shake of her head as heavy footsteps echoed in the hall.
There he was.
All six foot two of masculinity. Broad shoulders pulling a dark gray T-shirt tight. Hard, tanned biceps stretched the limits of the cotton sleeves. He still wore his inky hair short. And his eyes…Those turquoise eyes still haunted her dreams. Her breath caught as old longing stirred.
* * *
Mitch halted abruptly in the entryway, nearly losing his grip on the can of Coke. No way could the woman sitting on the couch be Emily. The defiant teen he remembered had transformed into stunning class. The black and pink hair that had made her mother apoplectic was gone. Now, she wore it natural, pulled back into a loose, honey-blond ponytail. Gone too was her all-black attire. For that matter, she wore a skirt; a flimsy short number that showed off smooth, muscular thighs. Holy hell. He’d wondered, he’d even imagined…but damn, those legs could destroy a man.
He blinked, realized he was staring, and cleared his throat. Forcing his feet to move again, he took another step into the room and noticed the guy lounging beside her on the couch. His relaxed posture radiated confidence, and his designer clothes dripped sophistication. His hand casually ran up and down the length of Emily’s back. Intimate. Clearly there was something between them. Something that made Mitch’s gut twist fiercely and had him wishing he’d been brave enough to chase her down as a teen.
“Mitch?” she asked, rising to her feet.
His gaze dropped to the expanse of smooth skin at her skirt’s hem. Then lower to the knee-high black boots that added four inches to her height and brought her nose level with his. Desire curled through him.
Paris had done a number on her.
He cleared his throat again. “Yeah, it’s me.” Needing something to do with his hands, he thrust the Coke at her. “Good to see you.” Damned good. If only she knew how often he’d thought of her. But then again…if she had any idea, she’d probably laugh.
His head still reeling, he barely caught Emily when she threw her arms around his neck and wrapped him in a hug. The faint scent of sweet musk filled his nose, and he fought the urge to turn his head into her neck and inhale deeply. She fit. God, did she ever. Better than he dared to consider.
He took a step back, extracting himself from her arms, and nodded at the man who had risen from his seat.
“Andre LeMarque.” He thrust out his hand.
Mitch took it and gave a firm shake. “Mitch Taylor.” Something about the man’s name sounded familiar. Or maybe it was his face. Mitch couldn’t recall exactly. But he despised the all-too-perfect way he paired with Emily.
He nodded. “Ah, yes. I’ve heard about you. I’m pleased to make your acquaintance.”
“Only good things, I hope.” Mitch chuckled. Emily had been talking about him? What the hell had she said? It couldn’t have been anything positive, that’s for certain. Being Derek’s best friend through their high school years had pretty much left him lumped in the enemy camp. Not that he’d been any too keen on getting mixed up in her constant trouble. But part of him had wanted to, more than once.
Nope, what she’d said definitely wasn’t positive--the look of surprise Emily shot Andre made that pretty clear.
Andre seemed unfazed as he grinned. “Of course.”
“Mm-hm.” Mitch turned his attention back to Emily. She’d resumed her spot on the couch and sipped her soda. The leg she’d crossed managed to expose another inch or two of her thigh, making it damned hard to look at her face. He squashed the pull of desire brimming in his veins. Even if she wasn’t his best friend’s sister, even if she wasn’t involved with this LeMarque guy, she spelled trouble. She might be more polished now, but some things just couldn’t be curbed. If he needed evidence of that, he only had to look at his mother. Her wild side had led her to abandon her family.
“So, you’re doing interior design now?” he asked. Lame. And yet…safe. Completely, boringly safe.
She nodded, grinning. “Andre and I will be opening our own business in a few weeks. We’ve been working toward it for the last year.”
We. Our. If he’d needed concrete proof that Emily was intimately involved with her friend, Mitch had just received it. A thread of disappointment pulled through him. He bit it back but felt his smile pull tight. “Derek said you’ve had some powerful endorsements recently.”
A touch of pretty pink crept into her cheeks. “Yeah.”
Andre leaned forward and patted Emily’s knee. “Her designs were featured in Ches Soi, Interior Design, and Elle Decor magazines last year. She has worked hard, and I am very proud of her.”
Emily’s blush intensified as she lifted long lashes to look at Andre. Mitch glanced away, unable to witness the intimacy part of him had always wanted.
“Hey, steaks are ready.” Derek’s shout drifted from the kitchen. “We’re eating on the patio.”
Mitch exhaled and turned on his heel. Saved by the bell. Now to survive a quick dinner and make a speedy exit before his dick started sending signals his brain couldn’t resist. Besides, he had a presentation to work on and financials to draft. He and Derek had a meeting on a proposed medical complex in five days, and it was Mitch’s job to reel in the big fish.
Emily passed him in the kitchen, and his attention once more locked onto the subtle sway of her hips and the lack of a visible panty line. Was she bare beneath that flimsy skirt? His cock jumped to attention, and Mitch bit back a groan.
She’s trouble. Always has been. She’ll never settle down.
But damned if every reason to avoid her made her more irresistible. She probably knew exactly how to use those legs to drive a man crazy. Probably wasn’t afraid to get a little sweaty…or a little dirty. There’d be no guessing games, no trying to read her mind--she’d always been direct. Boyfriend aside, she’d make the perfect candidate for a quick, no-strings-attached romp, and the way his body reacted to her made how long he’d neglected his needs undeniably clear.
If she wasn’t his best friend’s little sister.
But she was, and no matter how Derek disapproved of her wild nature, he adored Emily. Which meant Mitch needed to take his eyes off her ass, pronto.Book Details