HEART OF DESIGN
by Ellen Butler
Sophie Hartland has recently turned 30, and is five years out from a confidence crushing divorce. She’s sworn off men in favor of making her interior design business a success when her best friend introduces her to LA Heat’s hot, new star, Ian O’Connor. He’s one of Hollywood’s beautiful people, with an Irish accent that makes Sophie’s toes curl. Ian hires her to renovate his home, and at their second meeting he initiates a scorching kiss that knocks her socks off. Even though she would love to drop down and go for it on the funky kitchen floor, Sophie sticks to her guns and enforces her “no dating clients” rule.
The tabloids portray flirtations Ian as Hollywood’s latest playboy who has women falling at his feet, and Sophie refuses to be another notch on his bedpost. But Ian isn’t the type to take no for an answer, and he finds Sophie a refreshing change from the actress wannabes trying hop aboard his new gravy train of success. Using his charm, he tries to persuade Sophie to break the rules.
Can Sophie ignore her traitorous libido and hold Ian off for the next five or six weeks until the renovations are finished? Or will she cave in to his pull on her heartstrings, and end up doing the knicky-knacky on the new velvet sofa? More importantly, can she protect her heart in this game of wills?
The chandelier was large and unwieldy, at minimum a two-man job. Thirty minutes later, I deeply regretted my choice of lighting. Nothing was going right with the beautiful chrome and glass monstrosity, and Ricky was on his third trip out to his van to look for a harness that would be strong enough to properly hold the heavy piece. I think he was punishing me for purchasing this beast by taking a smoke break while I stood atop one ladder balancing the chandelier on the other. My arms ached from holding it up for such a long time, and my back protested at the awkward way I had to lean forward to balance it.
Finally, the door opened and closed.
“It’s about time. This chandelier is killing me. Remind me never to order this piece again.”
“I’ll try to remember that,” Ian’s dry voice replied.
My head whipped around to look over my shoulder. The ladder wobbled and I leaned farther forward to compensate. Ian put his hand up to help steady me. Unfortunately, with my rear sticking out, basically the best handhold he could get was on that appendage. I cringed in mortification. Just when I’d resolved to be calm and collected the next time I saw him, he arrived when I was doing an impression of a demented cat in heat. As soon as Ian felt I was secure, he removed his hand, and to my horror, climbed the opposite ladder.
“This is perfect. I have you in a position where you can’t run away.” He shifted the chandelier slightly to relieve the load.
I ducked my head into my left bicep and moaned. “Why is it I’m perpetually thrown off balance around you? Literally and figuratively. It seems I can never get my feet under me when you’re around, and I constantly look like an idiot.”
“I don’t know. Yesterday you hopped through the mess in the front hall with the agility of a gazelle being chased by a cheetah. Whereas, I wiped out on a pillow. Looking at it objectively, you fell into my pool as graceful as a ballet dancer.”
“Good to know.” My voice dripped sarcasm.
“Now about Kate—”
“Ian, you don’t owe me any explanations. We have no commitment to each other. You’re free to date whom you want. In the future, I’ll make sure the crew and I ring the bell before entering. I should have done so yesterday. It won’t happen again.”
He watched me with a raised eyebrow and a smirk. “Are you finished?”
“Good, because I’d like you to meet Kate, my stepsister,” he enunciated, “and if you don’t have any plans tonight, please join us for dinner.”
My mind went blank as soon as I heard the word stepsister. “Huh?” was my brilliant response.
His smirk turned into a wide grin. “Kate, my father’s stepdaughter from New York, is in town for a couple of days. She’d like to meet you.”
“Why does she want to meet me?” My brilliance continued.
“Perhaps because I’ve mentioned you.”
“Why would you do that?”
“Because, besides my co-star Carmen, you’re the sole woman in my life right now.”
Ian gave me an arched look.
“So, Kate was the voice I heard yesterday?”
My face split into a wide smile. “You’re not sleeping with some floozy.”
“No. And for the record, I don’t sleep with floozies.”
“Good to know.”
“So, you’ll come?”
“What? Come where?”
He snapped a finger in my face. “Focus, Soph. Come to dinner with Kate and me tonight.”
“Are you sure you want me to come?”
“I wouldn’t have asked if I didn’t.”
“You should say yes. I’m making him take me to Nobu,” a female voice said behind me.
Glancing over my shoulder, I spotted Ricky holding a long metal rod. He stood next to a willowy young woman with stick-straight, wheat-colored hair, dressed in a designer deep purple jumpsuit and sporting a cheeky grin.
“Sophie, this is my sister, Kate Dekker. Kate, meet Sophie Hartland.”
“Um, hello.” I nodded awkwardly at her from my perch.
“Are you two finished up there?” Ricky asked.
“I believe so.”
“Not yet. She hasn’t answered my question,” Ian said.
“Are you planning to hold me hostage up here until I answer?” My eyes returned to his.
“Yes.” His gaze tugged at my belly and left me speechless.
A subtle cough pulled me out of my libido-induced zone-out. “Okay then.”
“Glad that’s all worked out.” Ricky’s voice dripped sarcasm.
Have I mentioned how awesome the Crimson Romance line is lately? Oh, I haven’t. Well, let me tell you if you are looking for well thought out, great characterization, sensual and swoon worthy romance stories, look no further. Ms. Butler hit this one out of the park for me. Yes, I will admit that I picked the book based on the hero’s name, Ian and that he was Irish. I’m a sucker but from the moment I started reading Ian and Sophie’s story, I couldn’t put it down.
Seriously, I read this book in a couple of hours without a break. The pacing, flow and just how I loved every single character in the book. Even the secondary characters with Ziggy, Holly, Eva, Sophie’s mom, Rich, Poppy and Ricky were awesome too. Each one brought something to the relationship that Ian and Sophie were building on.
I won’t go into how awesome Ian and Sophie were because, well they just were. They had a push/pull relationship but they respected each other. No pushovers, Ian not going all alpha didn’t happen. When they needed to talk, they actually did communicate. Nothing was hidden, no agendas to work through. Just a story about two people that fell in love when neither was looking.
The secondary plot with Holly and Eva was also well played, too. Ian knew when to back up and when to push. The Disney kitchen is priceless. I liked that Sophie was in over her head but still went for it anyway.
I wish I could find something wrong with Heart of Design but I just can’t. Even the sex scenes were great. I do however, want more from the secondary characters. Hopefully in the future we can see Poppy or Holly finding true love. Or maybe they have…don’t know but I will definitely be on the lookout for Ms. Butler’s next book.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Ellen Butler lives in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC, and is new to novel writing. She holds a Master’s Degree in Public Administration and Policy, and her history includes a long list of writing and editing for dry but illuminating professional newsletters, and windy papers on public policy. The leap to novel writing was simply a creative outlet for Ellen’s over active and romantic imagination to run wild.
Heart of Design is her third release in 9 months. You can find her first two releases, Poplar Place and Second Chance Christmas at Amazon and other major eBook retailers. Professionally, she belongs to the Virginia Writer’s Club, the Northern Virginia Writer’s Club, and is a founding member of the Tempting Romance blog. When she’s not writing, Ellen is either, running around after her children, decorating a neighbor’s house, or holed up in her favorite lounge chair reading. Ellen is an admitted chocoholic and confesses to a penchant for shoe shopping. Book club questions for Ellen’s novels can be found on her website.
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