Even the best-laid plans can go awry.
Single-mom Kiersten Worth knows a bottle of champagne and night of hot, no-strings-attached sex is the perfect solution to her jilted bride blues…and Garrett Kelly, long-time friend and her teenaged son’s sexy basketball coach, is just the stud for the job.
Garrett wants more from the elusive temptress than a casual affair, but he never expects it to come in the form of an unexpected pregnancy. When he proposes an unorthodox solution—move in and raise their baby together—Kiersten has to decide whether to let down her guard and open her heart to the man who secretly loved her for years, or risk losing his tender embrace for good.
Kiersten glanced in the mirror and smoothed her hair back out of her eyes with a trembling hand. Tonight, she was going to do something completely out of character. Terrifyingly so. When she had been sitting in the bleachers earlier, reflecting on the fact that today was supposed to have been her wedding day, she’d compared her life now to what she’d expected it to be. And quite honestly…it sucked. Her ex-fiance Pete was probably married to his skanky secretary by now. Blissfully and happily getting ready to raise cheating little babies to match their cheating, lying parents.
While she hadn’t even gotten laid since the break-up.
Today was supposed to have been her special day—the day she said I do. As the time had ticked down on Chris’s game, it also had ticked down on her contentment to just…be alone. Then it came to her—she didn’t have to be alone tonight. She could give a final eff-you-Pete and sleep with the one man Pete had always been threatened by.
Pete would never know, but she would.
And it would feel good.
Now all she needed to do was tell Garrett.
She hoped she hadn’t misread the interest in his eyes. And hope he wouldn’t turn her down. She was choosing him as her target because of three reasons. One? Proximity. He was coming to her place tonight anyway. Two? He used to have a crush on her back in high school and probably still wondered what it would be like between them, so less likely to reject her. And three? That whole secret eff-you factor he would give her.
Maybe it was childish but so what? Pete had decided he loved to bang his secretary more than he loved Kiersten, so why shouldn’t she celebrate tonight with a good bout of forbidden sex and a little too much wine?
And hopefully some sore legs tomorrow.
Yeah. That’s what so what she’d envisioned of this day when they had sent to save the date cards out.
Kiersten sent a quick goodnight text to Chris, who was sleeping over his cousin’s house, and hurriedly brushed her hair. At most, she only had thirty minutes before Garrett arrived—and the furriness of her legs appalled her more than words could say. After a fast shower and an even quicker make-up session, she stood in front of her closet gripped with indecision on what to wear.
Could she really go through with this impetuous plan? Seduce one of her only friends?
When Pete had destroyed the tiny bit of faith she’d had in humanity, she had fallen to pieces. All of her life, she had avoided relationships so Chris wouldn’t have a father figure enter his life and just as quickly leave. But then the one freaking time she trusted a man and let him in, he’d cheated on her with his secretary and they’d called the whole thing off.
She had been broken hearted but Chris had been even worse off.
She would never do it again. Wouldn’t bring an unstable man into his life like she had before. She’d been right to avoid love. All the love she needed she got from her family.
But she wouldn’t think about that asshat Pete. She would drink with Garrett. Get a little stupid. Let loose. And have some casual, no strings attached sex. If she could do that with anyone in her life, it would be Garrett. He’d always been by her side, rooting her on.
Looking at her with those hot, blazing blue eyes that seemed to undress her without a simple touch. Her stomach tightened just thinking about him and that look. And given his years-long single status, he didn’t seem to want a relationship any more than she did.
But what if he wanted more than she could give him? A series of pictures ran through her head of how he would fall in love with her and ask for her to marry him. Have kids with him.
She shuddered at the mere thought.
Nah. He wouldn’t want that. He’d never even acted on his crush in high school, so how serious could it have been? Not once in all of their time together had he even given her a slight hint he wanted those things. Hot glances? Yes. Happily Ever After? No.
He was like her. Independent. Unattached, and content to stay that way.
Marriage obviously wasn’t for the Worth children. The only one of them that hadn’t been messed up from their parents screwed up marriage was her older sister, Brianna. She was married with three kids. Her previous husband had died, but Brianna had met another man she’d fallen head over heels in love with. Thomas Jones. Now they were married and happily living their normal lives in their normal house in their normal world.
Then there was her and her brother Mike.
Mike didn’t spend more than a night with the same woman—if not an hour—and Kiersten refused to even try relationships ever again. She was broken. Unfixable. She didn’t want to get married, or even fall in love a second time. Didn’t want any kids besides Chris. She was fine alone.
But she needed to get laid. Needed to prove to herself that she wasn’t a complete failure that couldn’t attract a man—nonetheless keep him. And Garrett seemed like a sure bet, given the way he looked at her when he thought she wasn’t watching. Like she was a woman, and he was a man. And he wanted her.
Or at least…she thought he did.
After pairing a scoop neck sweater with a black skirt and applying a quick spritz of perfume, she made it downstairs just in time to feel her phone vibrate in her hand. He was here. When she opened the door, he stood there smiling at her, a bottle of Asti in his hand. The porch light illuminated his perfection; as if God was reminding her just how exquisitely he had made this particular male specimen.
“Hello,” she said, motioning him inside.
“Hey,” he murmured. His blue eyes swept over her body, leaving heat everywhere they touched. She normally wore sweats and a T-shirt when he came over to hang out, so he was probably wondering at the short skirt she wore. “Wow. You look pretty tonight.”
Her cheeks heated up. “Thanks.”
He came inside and she busied herself closing the door and locking it. The chill of the metal cooled her hunger for him—to some degree. “Is Chris gone?” he asked.
“Of c-course,” she stammered. “He’s at Brianna’s for the night.”
Garrett strode into the living room and set the bottle down before unzipping his coat. His black shirt clung to his finely tuned body, and her fingers twitched. Everything from his black hair, to his six-pack, down to his damn boots screamed out for her attention. And those blue eyes were mesmerizing. She could get lost in them for hours.
“That’s good.” Running a hand over his shirt to smooth it out, he cocked his head. “So we’ve got the whole place to ourselves, huh? No whispering required.”
She headed for the glasses. Images of her screaming out his name flashed over her, making her hot. She looked at him over her shoulder, hoping the smile she gave him would pass as seductive. “We can be as loud as we want. No one will hear me scream.”
He faltered in his steps, his eyes wide. Yep. She’d gotten her point across.
She pulled the corkscrew from the drawer but he slid up behind her and snatched it out of her hands. He always liked doing the muscle work for her, as if she couldn’t possibly do it alone. It used to bug her. Now, it didn’t. Weird.
She watched his muscles flex as he twisted the corkscrew, and swallowed hard. What was wrong with her? She needed to stop ogling him like she was thinking about stripping him naked here in the kitchen. Because she totally wasn’t. At all.
She totally planned on bringing him upstairs before stripping him.
“Are you doing okay?” He glanced at her out of the corner of his eye, his brow furrowed. He was probably wondering what the hell was wrong with her. “I know tonight’s gotta be rough for you.”
She swallowed. “I’m okay.”
“I know you are.” He squeezed her hand, then dropped it. She clenched her fist. “But I’m here if you want to vent or cry or whatever. Whatever you need.”
And she knew that, too. He was always there for her. But he said that without knowing what she needed tonight. “I know,” she said softly, her voice barely audible. “You’re a great friend.”
“I’d hope so. Sometimes I wonder, with how much you try to hide our friendship.” When he reached around her to set the opened bottle down on the granite counter, his breath fanned her cheek. He smelled like cologne and woodsy shampoo. “I don’t get the secrecy. I had to lie to Mike again so he wouldn’t ask questions about us.”
“It’s just better this way.”
“If you say so,” he drawled.
He leaned back against the counter and crossed his arms. He was looking at her again. Really looking. And even worse, something inside of her responded in a way she didn’t fully understand or welcome. It was as if something gave way, or shifted for him. She stared back at him, refusing to shrink away. Refusing to back down. He held her gaze, both of them silently challenging the other to be the first to look away.
If Mike knew what she was planning to do with Garrett tonight, he’d slap her upside the head for messing with his best friend. Brianna, on the other hand, would cheer her on. She always believed that love and happiness conquered all, despite the fact that she’d lost her first husband to cancer at way too young of an age.
And despite the fact that God had also taken their sister in a car accident only months after she’d had her son.
Ah. To be so blissfully optimistic.
After what felt like a year, she finally gave up and lost the staring contest. The longer she looked into those baby blues, the more nervous she got. Sucking in a shaky breath, she busied herself with filling the glasses up. “Thirsty?”
“Sure.” He eyed her but didn’t comment on her odd behavior. “Did you finish editing that book you were working on Monday night?”
“Yep. It’s been all prettied up and sent back to the author.” She worked from home as an editor and loved her job.
“Good.” Picking up the glasses, he handed her one and held his out for a toast. “Let’s toast to celebrate the win today. Chris did an excellent job and I have a feeling he’s only going to get better. You have quite the amazing nephew.”
“I’m not going to argue that,” she answered. She watched him over the rim of her glass, tension humming through her veins. His eyes latched onto hers, heating up under her stare. She looked away and tucked her side swept bangs behind her ear. “He wants to get a scholarship to Harvard, so let’s hope he keeps improving.”
“He can do it.”
Kiersten smiled at his utter conviction. Once again, something inside of her moved a little bit. She didn’t like it. “I know, but thank you.”
He lifted his glass again. “And we’re also toasting to your freedom from an asshole who didn’t know what he had when he had it,” he said, his eyes hard. “If he hadn’t shown his true colors, you would be marrying that jerk right now. You deserve so much better.”
She bit down hard on her tongue. He was right, but it didn’t stop the pain and humiliation Pete had put her through. “I don’t want to talk about him. I want to…to forget. To not think about what would have been, or why I was stupid enough to believe in him in the first place.”
Because if she started thinking about what Pete had done to Chris and her…she would break.
“Fair enough.” He stepped closer, his toes touching hers. He smoothed her hair that she’d sloppily tucked behind her ear, watching her as he did so. “Did I tell you how beautiful you look tonight?”
“Yes, you did.” She shivered, swaying closer despite the warning bells going off in her head. And he didn’t move away from her. If anything, he moved closer. Thank God. “But you shouldn’t say that.”
He cupped her cheek and ran his thumb over her chin, perilously close to her mouth. “Why not?”
Yeah, why not?
And that brought them to her agenda for the evening—sex. Time to start her arguments. State her case. They were both consenting adults. Easy. Straightforward. Commitment free.
“I like it when you do.” She chugged the rest of her drink. “But right now, we’re just friends. Friends don’t call each other pretty.”
He quirked a brow at her and took the glass away from her. She waited for him to question the right now part of her sentence, but instead he said, “You can call me pretty if you want. I don’t mind.”
She rolled her eyes. “Okay, pretty boy. Get me another drink, or I’ll have to slap you around a bit.”
He chuckled. “I might like that.”
She licked her lips. “I bet you would.”
He hissed in a breath through his teeth. “You’re feisty tonight, aren’t you?”
“You have no idea.”
He shot her a heated look, finished his own cup, and refilled them both with trembling hands. He seemed to steady himself by the time he turned back around to face her. The fire was gone from his eyes and he looked completely harmless. But she knew better.
“Here you go. You might want to slow down, though. You’ll be drunk if you don’t.” His lips tilted up into a small smile. “But if that’s what you want, then keep drinking. I won’t complain. I’ll even tuck you in when you pass out on the couch.”
“Hm.” She tipped back the glass. “Or you could join me?”
He stilled, the glass pressed to his lips. “What?”
“I’m kidding, of course.”
Was it just her, or did disappointment cross his features? “Of course you are. I knew that.”
“But then again…” She rolled a small sip around her tongue, watching him the whole time. After she swallowed, she slowly licked her lips. He watched her every movement, his muscles tight. “Maybe I feel like being a little bit stupid tonight. Want to join me?”
“Depends.” His hand tightened on the wine glass. “What do you want to do?”
“I want…” She clung to her glass, trying to get the nerve to say what she wanted out loud. What if she’d read him wrong? What if he wasn’t interested in her at all? God, she was pathetic. She didn’t used to be so uncertain of herself. She could thank her asshat of an ex for that, too. She took another gulp of wine, wishing it would take effect quicker. “Never mind that. Are you seeing anyone right now?”
He shook his head. “No. Why?”
“No reason.” She toyed with a piece of her hair and took another sip. “Can I ask you something?”
He looked less than sure. “What?”
“Did you ever have a crush on me?” She moved closer to him, and his lids dropped to cover his eyes, but not before she saw the desire in them. Desire for her. The knowledge gave her the confidence she needed to continue on. “Ever want to see what it would be like between us?”
He inhaled deeply. “You’re drunk already, aren’t you?”
“No.” She set her glass down and grabbed a hold of his shirt, tugging him closer. Her heartbeat pounded in her ears, drowning out anything else he said. “I’m not. I just want to let loose tonight. Have fun. With you.”
“Kiersten…” Her name seemed to be ripped out of somewhere deep within him. His Adam’s apple bobbed, and his hands fell to her hips. “What are you up to?”
“You’ll see.” She smoothed the shirt over his shoulders, then ran her hands down his hard biceps. “Now answer me.”
He stiffened. “What are you doing?”
“Touching you.” She looked up at him through her lashes. “Why? You want me to stop?”
“Yes. No.” His eyes darkened, and his knuckles whitened on the glass stem. “Shit. You better think twice about what you’re doing. Once you start this, I’m not backing down.”
She bit down on her lower lip. “Who says I want you to stop? Now answer me.”
“Kiersten…” He stepped back from her, his entire body hard and unyielding. “Are you sure you’re not drunk?”
Please. She wished she was, it would make this easier. She should have waited longer. Gotten some more drinks in them both. But it was too late to back down now that she’d gotten the ball rolling. She took his glass out of his hand, setting it beside hers. “No. I just want you.”
His hands fell to her hips. She couldn’t tell if he wanted to push her away or pull her closer. Maybe a little of both? If he rejected her, she would never be able to show her face in front of him again. “Are you sure?”
“Very.” She wrapped her arms around his neck, tugging him closer still. “Did you ever have a crush on me, or wonder what it might be like to spend a night together? To kiss me? Touch me?”
He groaned, and his fingers tightened their grip on her. “Yes. God, yes.”
“Good. Because I did, too. I still want to know what it would be like. Tonight.” She lifted her chin and looked into his eyes. “Kiss me.”
His gaze fell to her mouth. She was so close to victory she could taste it. “Why now?”
She played with the curls at the nape of his neck. “Why not?”
His jaw flexed. “I need a better answer than that.”
“I need to have fun tonight. Forget why I’m upset. Forget it all.”
“And what about Chris?”
“He’ll never know, will he? He’s not here.” She fought the desperation clawing its way up her throat. If he rejected her, she would die. Just. Die. “Please, I need you tonight, Garrett. So bad.”
“I never could say no to you.” He let out a tortured groan and lowered his head. He stopped just short of her lips. “But this will change everything I’ll need—”
“Just stop talking and do it already.”
She rose on tiptoe, closing the distance between them. When their lips touched, electric sparks had to have shot off of them. Once their lips met, she forget every other supposedly amazing kiss she’d ever had with any other man in her life. All that existed was Garrett. Like there hadn’t been anyone else in her life but him. Always him.
It terrified her.
She started to pull back, to change her mind, but then his tongue slipped into her mouth and he tipped her backwards over his arm. She clung to him, completely wrapped up in the way he held her. The way his lips moved over hers, tasting of Asti and pure Garrett. Digging her fingernails into his shoulders, she ripped her mouth away from his with considerable effort.
“Upstairs. Now.” She wasn’t risking him changing his mind.
He swept her into his arms and flung her over his shoulder. He smacked her ass hard enough to sting, but not so hard it actually hurt. “Right away, ma’am.”
He took the stairs two at a time and reached her bedroom door within seconds.
Purchase from Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/play-me-diane-alberts/1115947180?ean=9781622661923
Diane Alberts has always been a dreamer with a vivid imagination, but it wasn’t until 2011 that she put her pen where her brain was, and became a published author. Since receiving her first contract offer, she has yet to stop writing. Though she lives in the mountains, she really wishes she was surrounded by a hot, sunny beach with crystal clear water. She lives in Northeast Pennsylvania with her four kids, a husband, a schnauzer mutt, a cat, and a Senegal parrot. In the rare moments when she’s not writing, she can usually be found hunched over one knitting project or another.
She is a multi-published, bestselling author with Entangled Publishing, Swoon Romance, and Decadent Publishing. ON ONE CONDITION hit #18 on the Barnes and Noble Bestseller List, and TRY ME hit #76 on Amazon. CAPTIVATED BY YOU hit #31 on the Barnes and Noble bestseller list. Her goal is to write so many fantastic books that even a non-romance book fan will know her name. She also writes New Adult books under the name Jen McLaughlin. Diane is represented by Louise Fury from the L. Perkins Agency.
Facebook Fan Page: https://www.facebook.com/DianeAlberts6