A second chance at love, or a recipe for disaster?
After her older sister committed an unspeakable crime that tainted their family name, Desire Summers has lived her life trying to redeem it. But when Chase, her fiancé’s older brother returns to Evergreen, looking sexier than she remembers, Desire fears that one look into the compelling gray eyes of the man she still loves, and wants, will shatter the good-girl façade she has so carefully crafted.
Twelve years ago, bad-boy, Chase Hunter, was humiliated and run out of town by the devious deeds of a business rival. Now, a refined self-made billionaire, he returns to Evergreen to avenge the wrong done against him and win back the love, trust, and respect of the girl he had been forced to leave behind—a girl who has blossomed into a stunningly desirable woman. There is only one problem: she is engaged to his younger brother.
Can Chase convince Desire—the only woman he has ever loved—that they belong together, before it is too late, or will pride and circumstance keep them from realizing their dreams and living the life they had planned together, years ago?
DESIRE'S CHASE EXCERPT
When he spotted Desire’s car in the clearing where the road was too narrow to accommodate larger vehicles, Chase gassed his motorcycle—dirt, gravel, dead leaves, and twigs flying in all directions.
Adrenaline rushed to his brain, jamming all fear of skidding and colliding headfirst into a tree trunk. A quarter mile in, he brought his bike to a halt, applied the brake pedal, kicked the rest stand into place, and jumped off, all in one fluid motion.
He pulled off his helmet and sprinted toward the rear of the boarding house and the entrance with the missing door. The resounding tenderness he’d felt at the realization that it was Desire who’d been visiting their secret lair was tempered by concern as he flew up the stone steps. Evergreen was a fairly safe town, but one could never be too careful.
Years ago, he and Desire had come here under the cloak of night with only the stars and his motorcycle’s headlight to guide them, but that was different. A defenseless woman alone in an abandoned building in the woods was a magnet for trouble, especially this late in the day when dusk would soon descend. Desire could so easily have fallen victim to a vicious attack.
Chase was out of breath when he finally stopped at the door to their old secret hideaway. His blood curdled at the muffled sobs over Al Green’s “How Can You Mend This Broken Heart,” coming from the boom box inside. He opened the door to the sight of Desire curled up on the mat, her face buried in the fleece blanket clutched in her hands.
“Desire.” Chase dropped his sunglasses and helmet next to her bag on the card table, and in the next instant, he was on the mat, his arms about her, pulling her close.
Her body stiffened momentarily, and then she relaxed as if accepting the comforting maleness of him.
“Chase—My—My Chase. You’re here,” she whispered between sobs.
A lump formed in Chase’s throat. Her sobs, Al’s tear-jerking vocals, the lyrics and the beat of the song tore away at Chase’s gut. “Yes, baby. Your Chase is here.” He pulled her closer, curling his body into hers, cradling her head into the crook of his arm, and fitting her perfectly against him.
The carnal hunger that had surged between them this morning was now supplanted by a deep soulful intimacy—the kind that remained when you took away the passion and the romance, the kind two people who were deeply connected to each other shared.
This morning, Desire had had a thousand reasons to pretend she didn’t want him sexually, but there was no need for her to pretend she didn’t need his comfort this very moment. He’d always been her person, showering her with TLC as a little girl when the neighborhood kids said mean things to her or excluded her from their playtime and birthday parties. She’d come running to him, expecting him to be her hero, to dry her tears, to put her smile back on her face.
In spite of the years of separation and silence between them, there was no doubt that Desire still needed him to soothe her hurts away, take on the boogieman for her, Chase thought, as her body racked with her sobs and her hot tears soaked the sleeves of his white cotton shirt.
Back then, he was the protective big brother she never had. Today, he was her all-encompassing man.
“I’m here, Desire, darling. I’m here, baby,” he whispered, kissing the back of her head and caressing her forehead, even as he wondered about the reason she had blown off lunch with Chad and the reporter. The Desire he knew wasn’t a cop-out. She saw things through. She never bailed. She was honest and straightforward. And that stick-to-itiveness, that honesty and loyalty, were the reasons she hadn’t given in to her feelings and kissed him this morning.
He’d read the longing in her eyes, just as he was certain she’d read it in his. The old Chase Hunter would have gone for it—and then dealt with the consequences later. But he wasn’t the old Chase Hunter. He’d changed—hopefully into the kind of man Desire could be proud of, the kind of man she need not fear would embarrass, abandon, or hurt her, ever again. Well, that is, if she could forgive him for sleeping with Lisa—his latest, and absolute last transgression where other women were concerned, he swore.
The music stopped, then Desire abruptly ceased crying as if she’d suddenly decided that she’d wept enough. She nestled deeper into him, pressing her shoulders into his chest, her back into his belly, and her derrière into his groin like it was the most natural thing in the world for her to do.
The rushing sounds of the river flowing downstream, the heat radiating from her slender body, and the floral scent of her hair, inundated Chase with fervent memories of their week on the mat. He cursed inwardly as his shaft responded to the wiggle of her backside against him.
Oh well. He wasn’t a saint or a monk. He was a man. A man in love with the woman lying in his arms. He tightened his hold, his love for her flowing as freely as the river outside.
“How did you know where to find me?” she finally asked in a hoarse voice.
“I came by here earlier today and I saw the mat, the candles, and the additional furniture. At first I thought someone else was making use of our secret lair, and it kind of pissed me off, if you must know. But after I spoke with Chad—”
She went rigid at the mention of Chad’s name. “You spoke with—him?”
Chase frowned at her avoidance of saying Chad’s name, and her harsh emphasis on him. What the hell had Chad done to her?
“What did he say?”
That was an odd question, Chase thought. He stared at the tree branches bobbing outside the window as he stroked his fingers through her hair, loving the silky feel of her tresses. He’d missed these simple acts of tenderness. “He told me you were missing, that no one knew where you were. He said you stood him up for lunch.” Chase waited for her to explain why she’d gone MIA, but when she didn’t, he asked. “What happened, Desire? Why have you been crying?”
With one deft move, she twisted out of his arms and knelt with her back to him.
Chase’s arms felt empty without her to fill them.
Involuntarily, his gaze slid over the slender curves of her shoulders, her tangled curls cascading down her back to the tiny span of her waist. He drank in the provocative swell of her hips under the skirt she’d worn to work this morning—the skirt he’d lifted up her thighs, ever so slowly. “What did Chad do to upset you so much?” he asked to keep his mind from trudging down dangerous, lustful paths. This wasn’t the time.
“Why do you think he did something?” she asked, as she reached for the lighter on the table and lit the three candles.
Chase watched the wicks flicker to life, sending miniature shadows dancing on the wall behind the table. “Because you tense up when I say Chad’s name. See, just like that,” he added when her back went ramrod straight. “Desire. Talk to me. You’ve always been able to talk to me about things that bothered you. I’m hoping that hasn’t changed. I’m here for you. Whatever it is that’s bothering you, just tell me.”
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