Harley Fisher’s life changed forever when her twin sister gave birth to a baby one month before she died. This Christmas, Harley wants her adopted daughter to have the very best gift possible: her real father. Determined to discover if Damien Adams is worthy of being a part of the baby’s life, Harley forces her way into a job as the manager-in-training for his new nightclub, Thrice. Damien is blunt, challenging, and sexy as all get-out. Desiring him is wrong, but when he touches her, it’s oh so right.
Damien needs a manager for Thrice so he can return to overseeing all three of his clubs. Harley’s too young, too hip, too damn tempting–and perfect for the job. Wanting her violates every rule he’s laid out for his life, but even the strongest convictions can falter under the mistletoe.
Harley’s keeping one hell of a secret. When Damien finds out, will Harley and his daughter be the best Christmas gift he’s ever received, or will her secrets leave them with nothing more lasting than a naughty little Christmas this year?
Harley came very close to laughing, though she wasn’t sure if it was actual amusement or just plain nerves. George Michael’s voice crooned “Last Christmas” in her head. “Tell me, baby, do you recognize me?” It’s definitely been a year. Guess the answer’s no.
She managed to hold back the laughter. Barely. Nerves wouldn’t get the better of her any more than Damien Adams would. She refused to allow it. Squaring her shoulders, she ignored the fact that she felt like an idiot with her hand dangling out in front of her, waiting to shake, while she faced down the man who had taken the Atlanta bar scene by storm less than a year ago. In person he was more like a blizzard, slamming into her senses, whiting out everything, including her courage. She’d always been good at faking it, though.
Ignoring his obvious impatience, she tried again. “Harley Fisher.”
The jerk stared back silently, full lips pressed tight together, a dark brow cocked up in question.
Okay, she knew she’d interrupted him, but seriously… She raised her own brow, getting a little impatient herself and trying hard to control it. “We spoke on the phone. About the general manager’s position,” she reminded him carefully.
Damien looked at her still-extended hand; then, with casual deliberation, he crossed his arms over his wide, muscular chest. The silk of his shirt stretched to a fit that resembled plastic wrap. Pulling her gaze from the deep V of the open neck, she dropped her hand and refused to be intimidated. She needed this job, and she intended to have it.
A spark of recognition lit those river-brown eyes, and Harley swallowed hard against the heavy, dry lump in her throat until he said, “Right. You’re the one I thought was a guy.”
She caught her grimace before it could get out. Yes, her name was unusual. She was often mistaken for a man until someone saw her in person, after which they simply thought she was an airhead. Or a slut. Her youth and rocker-chick persona often worked against her in the “real” world, but it never took people—men—long to learn differently. Hopefully Mr. Slick here would be quick on the uptake.
From the look of it, she had a better chance of Santa coming down her nonexistent chimney.
Raising her voice slightly to be heard over the remixed Christmas song blaring from the speakers, she said, “Yes, that Harley.” Try a smile, she told herself. “We—”
An impatient shake of his head cut off her words. “I believe I told you we were looking for someone more”—his gaze slid slowly down her body and back up—“more.”
More what, for God’s sake? More ready to jump into bed with him? A strong urge to put her leather jacket back on, as if she were still out in the Atlanta winter cold, bit into her. And pissed her off. Maybe she’d made a mistake in coming here. Damien obviously wasn’t the man she’d thought he would be, the man she needed.
No, give it a chance. This is too important to be making rash decisions. He can afford to; you can’t.
She dug her fingernails deep into her palms and wished her soon-to-be boss wasn’t quite such an ass.
Or quite so sexy. Looking at him heated her body in a way that had nothing to do with the anger she was feeling. The reaction shook her. Of course, Sonny’d always had good taste in men.
Which was definitely not why Harley was here.
Pain tingling in her palms from the digging of her nails, she forced herself to hold his stare. “Mr. Adams, simply because I’m young—and female—doesn’t mean I’m not the right person for the job. If you could just take a look over my résumé one more time—”
“I’ve seen what I needed to see, Ms. Fisher,” he said, voice dropping to little more than a growl. “I own three very successful clubs in three cities hundreds of miles apart. Traveling between them means leaving someone else in charge, someone with the experience and expertise to work independently, wisely, and efficiently. It means I must trust that person implicitly with my livelihood and that of my employees. Being Thrice’s general manager requires more than a familiarity with the bar.” That insulting look returned to his eyes, implying various ways she might’ve gained such knowledge that had nothing to do with her brains.
Oh, he so did not go there.
“So what you’re saying is, a woman in her midtwenties, a former musician, covered in tattoos but looking reasonably attractive is by definition a lush? Or are you insinuating that I’m a whore?”
Damien stared, eyes wide with shock, as if he couldn’t believe the words that had left her mouth. Then a boyish grin transformed him from put-out businessman to dangerously naughty hunk, and the urge to let go of her anger sank its teeth deep. No way. She was not forgetting he was rude, egotistical, asinine, a dickhead…
He laughed before she could let a real hissy fit loose. The sound echoed, rich and full, blending and countering the music filling the room. It deflated the ball of emotion choking her, drew her in, made her want to mix her laugh with his. She held her breath, unable to decide if his reaction was a good or bad thing.
“Forgive me,” Damien said. A wheeze interrupted the last word, and he had to pause to get his mirth under control. “You’re right. That was uncalled for.” Like an old-world aristocrat, he bowed from the waist. His shirt draped away from his chest, giving her a glimpse of smooth, tan skin all the way to his navel. “My apologies.”
Did he plan to kiss her hand next? The man had throwing people off down to an art. And why didn’t he look ridiculous with his shirt unbuttoned down to a lick-worthy six-pack? Reminding herself of her purpose, she said warily, “Accepted. I think.”
His grin said if that was the best he could get, he’d take it. “Ms. Fisher, I appreciate your candor—and that you are willing to forgive my rudeness. But—”
She barely refrained from rolling her eyes. There always has to be a but.
“—the fact remains that a certain level of experience is necessary for this position. I’m sorry.”
He turned to leave, and panic took over, pushing her to close the distance between them. Instinctively her hand shot out, and then she was gripping the heavy muscle of his biceps. Desperation firmed her hold when the shock of physical contact shot up her arm like a lightning bolt. He felt hot. Masculine. This close, he smelled of spice and alcohol, and she found herself breathing heavier just to take in more.
Don’t be a damn fool, Harley! Get your act together.
Before he could blast her for detaining him, Harley firmed both her courage and her voice. “Thrice has been open how long, Mr. Adams?” When he refused to answer, she did it for him. “Six months. I’ve been involved in the Atlanta music scene for fifteen years, the last seven of which I spent not only as a musician but as an event organizer and PR rep for my band and several others.”
That got him to face her fully. “You are either older than you look, or that’s a big stretch of the truth.”
She let a smirk sneak onto her lips. “And you are more unfamiliar with your new market than I would have given you credit for. My mother rotated out of every club in town, dragging me along with her from the time I was ten so she could sing her heart out. At fifteen I became involved with the indie music scene, and three years later formed and managed my own band, Aftershock.”
At the name, Damien’s brows shot up. So much for actually reading my résumé. Anyone with even a basic knowledge of indie music had heard of Aftershock; they were one of the foremost bands in the business, not just because they were damn good musicians, but because Harley had as good of instincts in management as she did with a bass guitar. If her private life hadn’t blown all to hell, she would still be with them.
She could tell he didn’t like admitting he was wrong, but at least the playboy charm was darkening into something more serious, more thoughtful, without the annoyed edge he’d shown at first. Time to close the deal. “You know the national scene, no doubt about it. You know what needs to be done to make things happen in LA or Colorado. You gained that know-how through study, experience, and local help.” She fought to keep the quaver of desperation out of her words. “I can give you that here, Mr. Adams, and with far more depth and speed and with lower cost than anyone else you could hire. I know Atlanta. I know the people here. I know the nightlife and the music and the contacts to make it all happen.” She pulled in a heavy lungful of air to ease her aching chest. “I am the person for this job.”
When the last word left her lips, she knew every ounce of her passion and determination went with it. Her lungs deflated like a balloon with a slow leak, refusing to refill as she waited for his verdict. Thinking of everything that was at stake, she willed him to listen, to see all that she could offer.
“You’re not gonna give an inch, are you?” he finally asked.
Harley narrowed her eyes. “No, and you wouldn’t want me to. It’s exactly what you need.”
Damien’s gaze dropped to the hand still clutching his arm. Harley slowly released him, the burn of embarrassment firing her cheeks. When his mouth, that sinfully full mouth, opened to speak, she braced herself for rejection.
Ella is giving away a tour grand prize of a $25 gift card to Amazon or Barnes & Noble and a free copy of her first e-book, Dirty Little Secret (the first book in this series).
Buy Link (currently only on Loose iD)
Ella Sheridan grew up in the middle of nowhere, otherwise known as the Deep South. Books provided her with adventures, friends, and her first forays into romance. To this day she explores the world through the words of her favorite authors, whether that’s the worlds across space and time or the worlds of love and passion. When she’s not writing or working or reading, she is corralling her two active teenagers, snuggling on the couch with her husband, working out her stress in a martial arts class, or sleeping. But no matter what she’s doing, the voices in her head just won’t let her go. You can contact Ella at her website, www.ellasheridanauthor.com .