To Win the Prizes:
About The Sullivans: In this sexy, emotional and funny contemporary romance series, each member of the Sullivan family will eventually find true love…usually where he or she least expects it.
Scroll down to learn more and to read excerpts for each book!
The Social Media Events – This is Where the Prizes are!
Blogaganza on Novel Publicity. We’re kicking-off on the Novel Publicity Free Advice blog. We’ll ask Bella a few quirky questions, so we can get to know hew and The Sullivans a bit better! Leave a comment or question in response to the post, and you may win our special “The Look of Love” romantic swag basket, specially compiled to celebrate book #1 in the series! CLICK HERE TO VISIT BLOGAGANZA.
Facebook Sharing Contest. Stop by Novel Publicity’s Facebook page and share their latest post (you’ll see the Come A Little Bit Closer book cover included with it).One lucky sharer will win a Nook Color! GO HERE TO SHARE.
Tweet Chat #1 with Bella. Join us for a live tweet chat with Bella Andre! We’ll talk about The Sullivans, Bella’s upcoming projects, and much, much more! Bring your questions, because one lucky participant will win a “From This Moment On” romantic swag basket, specially compiled to celebrate book #2 in the series! Just search the hashtag #TheSullivans at 4 PM EDT to join!
GoodReads Party. We’re bringing the fun to GoodReads in a special Bella Sullivan fan group–and the fun will be happening all day! Come for trivia, discussions, and–yes–prizes! One lucky participant will win a “Can’t Help Falling In Love” romantic swag basket, specially compiled to celebrate book #3 in the series! JOIN THE PARTY HERE.
Epic Love Story Contest. Time to get sentimental, spicy, or just plain old romantic! Share a love story (either yours, a friend’s, or something completely made-up). The most special/ heart-wrenching/ quirky storyteller will win a brand new iPad Mini, while a $50 Amazon gift card and a $20 iTunes gift card with Bella’s specially recommended romantic playlist will go to two runners-up! Winners will be announced Monday morning, so you have all weekend to come up with something wonderful! GO HERE TO ENTER.
Twitterview. A tweet is tiny, only 140 characters, and we all know writers loooove to talk. Come join us for a live interview via Twitter as we ask Bella to sum up her best-selling contemporary romance series as well as her writing habits and personality in teensy tiny tweets. We’ll open to questions from the audience at the end of the interview. One question-asker a “I Only Have Eyes For You” romantic swag basket, specially compiled to celebrate book #4 in the series! Join us on Twitter at 7 PM EST by searching #TheSullivans. READ THE FULL GRAPHIC TRANSCRIPT HERE!
Facebook Party. We’re bringing the fun to Facebook via Bella’s fan page–and the fun will be happening all day! Come for trivia, discussions, and–yes–prizes! One lucky participant will win a “If You Were Mine” romantic swag basket, specially compiled to celebrate book #5 in the series! JOIN THE PARTY HERE!
Tweet Chat #2 with Bella. Join us for a live tweet chat with Bella Andre! We’ll talk about Bella’s run-away indie success story, how The Sullivans made it big and what the experience has been like for her, as well as her best advice for other writers! Bring your questions, because one lucky participant will win a Kobo eReader! Just search the hashtag #TheSullivans at 12 PM EDT to join!
GoodReads Book Club. Come join a gigantic virtual book club bash as we discuss The Sullivans and have fun all day long–even the author herself will make an appearance! Come for trivia, discussions, and–yes–prizes! One lucky participant will win a “Come A Little Bit Closer” romantic swag basket, specially compiled to celebrate book #7 in the series! JOIN THE DISCUSSION HERE.
The Hot Date Contest. What would your perfect romantic evening include? Tell us about your dream date from start to finish. You can share an actual date you had or create your own fantasy evening. The most original and compelling idea will win a brand new Kindle Fire, while a $50 Amazon gift card and a $20 iTunes gift card with Bella’s specially recommended romantic playlist will go to two runners-up! Check out Bella’s website for more information and the full rules coming this Friday. Winners will be announced Monday morning, so you have all weekend to come up with something wonderful! GO HERE TO ENTER.
Learn more about the Sullivan Series
Book #1: The Look of Love
As a successful photographer who frequently travels around the world, Chase Sullivan has his pick of beautiful women, and whenever he’s home in San Francisco, one of his seven siblings is usually up for causing a little fun trouble. Chase thinks his life is great just as it is—until the night he finds Chloe and her totaled car on the side of the road in Napa Valley. Not only has he never met anyone so lovely, both inside and out, but he quickly realizes she has much bigger problems than her damaged car. Soon, he is willing to move mountains to love—and protect—her, but will she let him?
Chloe vows never to make the mistake of trusting a man again. Only, with every loving look Chase gives her—and every sinfully sweet caress—as the attraction between them sparks and sizzles, she can’t help but wonder if she’s met the only exception. And although Chase didn’t realize his life was going to change forever in an instant, amazingly, he isn’t the least bit interested in fighting that change. Instead, he’s gearing up for a different fight altogether…for Chloe’s heart.
Read an Excerpt
Chase almost missed the flickering light off on the right side of the two-lane country road. In the past thirty minutes, he hadn’t passed a single car, because on a night like this, most sane Californians—who didn’t know the first thing about driving safely in inclement weather—stayed home.
Knowing better than to slam on the brakes—he wouldn’t be able to help whomever was stranded on the side of the road if he ended up stuck in the muddy ditch right next to them—Chase slowed down enough to see that there was definitely a vehicle stuck in the ditch.
He turned his brights on to see better in the pouring rain and realized there was a person walking along the edge of the road about a hundred yards up ahead. Obviously hearing his car approach, she turned to face him and he could see her long wet hair whipping around her shoulders in his headlights.
Wondering why she wasn’t just sitting in her car, dry and warm, calling Triple A and waiting for them to come save her, he pulled over to the edge of his lane and got out to try and help her. She was shivering as she watched him approach.
“Are you hurt?”
She covered her cheek with one hand, but shook her head. “No.”
He had to move closer to hear her over the sound of the water hitting the pavement in what were rapidly becoming hailstones. Even though he’d turned his headlights off, as his eyes quickly adjusted to the darkness, he was able to get a better look at her face.
Something inside of Chase’s chest clenched tight.
Despite the long, dark hair plastered to her head and chest, regardless of the fact that looking like a drowned rat wasn’t too far off the descriptive mark, her beauty stunned him.
In an instant, his photographer’s eye cataloged her features. Her mouth was a little too big, her eyes a little too wide-set on her face. She wasn’t even close to model thin, but given the way her T-shirt and jeans stuck to her skin, he could see that she wore her lush curves well. In the dark he couldn’t judge the exact color of her hair, but it looked like silk, perfectly smooth and straight where it lay over her breasts.
It wasn’t until Chase heard her say, “My car is definitely hurt, though,” that he realized he had completely lost the thread of what he’d come out here to do.
Knowing he’d been drinking her in like he was dying of thirst, he worked to recover his balance. He could already see he’d been right about her car. It didn’t take a mechanic like his brother, Zach, who owned an auto shop—more like forty, but Chase had stopped counting years ago—to see that her shitty hatchback was borderline totaled. Even if the front bumper wasn’t half smashed to pieces by the white farm fence she’d slid into, her bald tires weren’t going to get any traction on the mud. Not tonight, anyway.
If her car had been in a less precarious situation, he probably would have sent her to hang out in her car while he took care of getting it unstuck. But one of her back tires was hanging precariously over the edge of the ditch.
He jerked his thumb over his shoulder. “Get in my car. We can wait there for a tow truck.” He was vaguely aware of his words coming out like an order, but the hail was starting to sting, damn it. Both of them needed to get out of the rain before they froze.
But the woman didn’t move. Instead, she gave him a look that said he was a complete and utter nut-job.
“I’m not getting into your car.”
Realizing just how frightening it must be for a lone woman to end up stuck and alone in the middle of a dark road, Chase took a step back from her. He had to speak loudly enough for her to hear him over the hail.
“I’m not going to attack you. I swear I won’t do anything to hurt you.”
She all but flinched at the word attack and Chase’s radar started buzzing. He’d never been a magnet for troubled women, wasn’t the kind of guy who thrived on fixing wounded birds. But living with two sisters for so many years meant he could always tell when something was up.
And something was definitely up with this woman, beyond the fact that her car was half-stuck in a muddy ditch.
Wanting to make her feel safe, he held his hands up. “I swear on my father’s grave, I’m not going to hurt you. It’s okay to get into my car.” When she didn’t immediately say no again, he pressed his advantage with, “I just want to help you.” And he did. More than it made sense to want to help a stranger. “Please,” he said. “Let me help you.”
She stared at him for a long moment, hail hammering between them, around them, onto them. Chase found himself holding his breath, waiting for her decision. It shouldn’t matter to him what she decided.
But, for some strange reason, it did.
…Excerpt from THE LOOK OF LOVE by Bella Andre ©2012.
Book #2: From This Moment On
For thirty-six years, Marcus Sullivan has been the responsible older brother, stepping in to take care of his seven siblings after their father died when they were children. But when the perfectly ordered future he’s planned for himself turns out to be nothing but a lie, Marcus needs one reckless night to shake free from it all.
Nicola Harding is known throughout the world by only one name – Nico – for her catchy, sensual pop songs. Only, what no one knows about the twenty-five year old singer is that her sex-kitten image is totally false. After a terrible betrayal by a man who loved fame far more than he ever loved her, she vows not to let anyone else get close enough to find out who she really is…or hurt her again. Especially not the gorgeous stranger she meets at a nightclub, even though the hunger – and the sinful promises – in his dark eyes make her want to spill all her secrets.
One night is all Nicola and Marcus agree to share with each other. But nothing goes as they plan when instead of simply tangling limbs, they find a deeper connection than either of them could have anticipated. And even though they both try to fight it, growing emotions – and sizzling attraction – keep drawing them closer together.
Close enough for them to wonder if stealing one more secret moment together can ever be enough?
Read an Excerpt
Marcus Sullivan was known for his patience. After helping to raise his seven siblings, he’d learned to wait out tantrums, fistfights, even tears.
But tonight, he was all out of patience.
He’d come to the club tonight to find a woman, to proposition her, to claim her for one no-holds-barred night, but he’d been watching the dancers for long enough to know that he wasn’t going to take a single one of them to bed. None of the women who’d walked in through the thick red curtain in the past thirty minutes had been contenders, either.
Until, suddenly, the curtain parted…and she walked in.
Marcus felt like a fist had slammed straight into his gut.
The woman was young, mid-twenties probably, and so beautiful it almost hurt to look at her. Her black leather dress left nothing to his imagination, fitting her like a second skin with wide cut-outs that ran down the side of her insane curves.
She was the one.
As she stood in the doorway and slowly scanned the crowd, every eye in the room was on her. She was magnetic, had that special something that made it impossible to pull your eyes away from her.
And then her eyes met his, illuminated by a beam of light in the dark room, and although Marcus hadn’t drunk nearly enough at Chase’s engagement party to be unsteady on his feet, one look at those clear blue eyes had him fighting for balance.
What was wrong with him?
He needed to remember, at all times, what tonight was about. Pleasure. Not emotion. Not a relationship. It was okay for certain parts of his body below the waist to react like a match had been lit from nothing more than looking at the woman. Everything else was off-limits. He wasn’t looking for a woman to respect.
And he definitely wasn’t going to fall in love.
The dangerous curves began to shift beneath the thin layer of leather as she moved straight toward him, never once breaking stride, even in impossibly high heels. Marcus couldn’t miss the challenge in her gaze, a look that asked if he was man enough to handle her.
He’d always liked his women tall and slim, not barely coming up to his chest like this one. A voice in his head told him she was way too young for him, young enough that if this were any other night, he’d walk away from her now.
But he wasn’t planning on walking away from whatever this woman offered. Not until first light.
And definitely not until he’d had his fill of those curves.
…Excerpt from FROM THIS MOMENT ON by Bella Andre ©2012.
Book #3: Can't Help Falling In Love
Gabe Sullivan risks his life every day as a firefighter in San Francisco. But after learning a brutal lesson about professional boundaries, he knows better than to risk his heart to his fire victims ever again. Especially the brave mother and daughter he saved from a deadly apartment fire…and can’t stop thinking about.
Megan Harris knows she owes the heroic firefighter everything for running into a burning building to save her and her seven-year-old daughter. Everything except her heart. Because after losing her navy pilot husband five years ago, she has vowed to never suffer through loving – and losing – a man with a dangerous job again.
Only, when Gabe and Megan meet again and uncontrollable flames of desire ignite between them, how can he possibly ignore her courage, determination, and beauty? And how can she deny not only his strong bond with her daughter…but the way his sweetly sensual kisses are challenging her to risk everything she’s been guarding for so long?
This winter, if one – or both – of them aren’t careful, they just might end up falling in love.
Read an Excerpt
Gabe Sullivan’s captain, Todd, stepped into the room.
“How’re you feeling, Gabe?”
He moved to sit up straighter on the bed and Todd shook his head. “You’re fine just like that. I know your skull must hurt like hell.” He nodded back to the doorway. “Are you ready to see Ms. Harris and her daughter, Summer?”
No, he thought, he’d be better off never seeing those eyes again.
He’d thought about Megan and her daughter one too many times for comfort. Not just because he was reviewing the rescue, trying to look for what he could have done differently, to have gotten them out faster and more safely—but because he hadn’t been able to forget her strength, how hard she’d fought to stay conscious, and what a fighter she’d been every single second of the harrowing journey from her burning apartment.
Still, he understood that fire victims often felt compelled to say thank you to the men who had saved them. Especially in a case like this, where they’d just barely held death at bay.
“Sure.” He began to nod, but a sharp shooting pain stopped him halfway into the movement.
Catching his grimace, Todd said, “I’ll ask Megan and her daughter to come back later.”
Her name fit her, Gabe had found himself thinking one too many times. Megan was pretty and strong all at the same time. It would be better to think of her as Ms. Harris. Although, he had to wonder, was there a husband? And if so, where had he been during the fire and why wasn’t he here with them now?
“No,” he said, “it’ll be better if I see them now.”
She’d say thank you, he’d tell her he was happy to see her and her daughter doing so well, and that would be that. No more being haunted by her eyes, by the surprising strength she’d shown him as she’d crawled on the floor of her apartment and down the stairs.
A couple of minutes later, Todd walked back in with the mother and daughter. Ignoring the pain in his head, Gabe sat up higher and forced a smile on his face.
And then, his eyes locked with Megan’s and his smile froze in place.
My God, he found himself thinking before he could shove the thought away, she’s beautiful.
The last time he’d seen her face it had been through a thick haze of dark smoke and the knowledge that one wrong move meant their lives were over. Her eyes were just as big and pretty, her limbs looked as lean and strong as they had when he’d been helping to move her along the floor, but now he could see the softness in her, the sweet curves of her breasts and hips in her T-shirt and jeans. He couldn’t stop staring at the startling green of her eyes, the silky dark hair falling across her shoulders, and the way her pretty young daughter was a carbon copy of her, the only difference their hair color, one dark, one light.
She seemed just as stunned as he and for a long moment, the two of them just stared at each other in silence until her daughter ran over to him and threw her arms around him.
..Excerpt from CAN’T HELP FALLING IN LOVE by Bella Andre ©2012.
Book #4: I Only Have Eyes For You
Sophie Sullivan, a librarian in San Francisco, was five years old when she fell head over heels in love with Jake McCann. Twenty years later, she’s convinced the notorious bad boy still sees her as the “nice” Sullivan twin. That is, when he bothers to look at her at all. But when they both get caught up in the magic of the first Sullivan wedding, she knows it’s long past time to do whatever it takes to make him see her for who she truly is…the woman who will love him forever.
Jake has always been a magnet for women, especially since his Irish pubs made him extremely wealthy. But the only woman he really wants is the one he can never have. Not only is Sophie his best friend’s off-limits younger sister…he can’t risk letting her get close enough to discover his deeply hidden secret.
Only, when Sophie appears on his doorstep as Jake’s every fantasy come to life—smart, beautiful, and shockingly sexy—he doesn’t have a prayer of taking his eyes, or his hands, off her. And he can’t stop craving more of her sweet smiles and sinful kisses. Because even though Jake knows loving Sophie isn’t the right thing to do…how can he possibly resist?
Read an Excerpt
Jake decided to steer completely clear of Sophie for the rest of the wedding. A little distance from all those soft curves and plump red lips would help him get his head back on straight.
“I’ve got this,” he told Sammy, one of his best bartenders at the original McCann’s in the city. “You can circulate with the trays.”
Fortunately, the wedding guests were thirsty, clearly needing some vino or hops to wash the taste of the syrupy vows from their tongues. Pouring drinks for strangers was as natural to Jake as breathing, and he immediately got into a rhythm in the middle of the vineyard as the meal was served and people kept a running line behind the bar between courses. He couldn’t remember a time he hadn’t been drying clean glasses, rearranging bottles. As a kid, when his dad had been the one running the taps, Jake had been in the back loading and unloading the dishwasher for a few extra bucks while the cooks at whatever pub they were at slung together plates of fish and chips and colcannon.
When the female guests flirted with him at the bar, he flirted back. So what if none of them were even half as pretty as Sophie? The Sullivans might be pairing up one after the other like they’d been infected by the same virus, but Jake had had his shots.
Love wasn’t going to take him down.
He knew better than to think that love meant a damn thing when the going got rough and it was easier to split. No wife, no kids, plenty of pretty women, but no rings, was what Jake’s future held. He’d play with all the kids the Sullivan clan was bound to pump out, would enjoy being Uncle Jake, but he wouldn’t make the mistake of thinking he’d ever be a good husband or father.
McCanns didn’t come with those genes.
“You haven’t had anything to eat yet.”
The slightly husky female voice reached in and grabbed him a split second before he looked straight into Sophie’s eyes. Her soft sensuality in that pink dress, the sweet smell of her perfume, were a one-two punch straight to a gut that hadn’t yet recovered from watching those tears slip down her cheeks, or the radiant smile that had followed.
Without waiting for an invitation, she put a full plate on the back table for him and moved around the bar to stand next to him. “Scoot over. I’ll help out while you eat.” She bumped her hip into his, his body not giving a damn that she was OFF LIMITS.
How could her brothers have let her out looking like this? What were they thinking? Didn’t they care even a little bit about their sister’s welfare?
While he was standing there losing his mind, Sophie took drink orders and deftly poured glasses of wine and mixed drinks for the wedding guests. She was a librarian, not a bartender. She shouldn’t be so good at serving drinks. And no librarian should ever be this hot, either, Jake thought as he clamped his jaw so tight his temple started throbbing. He’d let her help for five minutes, and then he’d send her back to her table to celebrate with the rest of her family and make sure she stayed there for the rest of the reception.
Even if he had to tie her to her seat.
A beer bottle nearly slipped from his grip as Jake was hit with a crystal-clear vision of Sophie in his bed, begging for him to—
“I hear you’re a librarian. Read any good books lately?”
Jake surfaced from his triple-X daydream just in time to notice a male guest leaning on the bar and looking down the top of Sophie’s dress.
She didn’t seem to notice any of that as she smiled back at the guy. She was too innocent to realize when a guy like this was aiming for one thing, and one thing only.
“Mmm,” she said in that seductive voice, still slightly hoarse from her tears. “I’m always reading great books. What do you like to read?”
The guy shrugged, not seeming to care that there was a huge backup of thirsty people bottlenecking behind him. “I’m a doct—”
“What are you drinking?” Jake broke in.
The guy shot him a look that said, Can’t you see I’m about to score here?
“Corona,” he said to Jake before turning back to Sophie. “As I was saying, I’m a doctor, so I don’t have too much time to read. But when I do, I usually read medical thrillers.”
Jake couldn’t believe it when Sophie leaned over the bar and said, “Oooh, how exciting. Medical thrillers always leave me breathless.”
Didn’t she get that this loser was way beneath her? She should be throwing a drink in his face, not giving him a better view of her body as she leaned down to grab a bottle of beer. Dr. Dickwad looked like he’d hit a home run, was counting the minutes until he could strip that dress from her tanned skin and find out if she tasted as good as she smelled.
Like hell. Jake would kill him first.
Jake snatched the bottle from her hand. “Here’s your beer. Time to let everyone else get a drink.”
He could feel Sophie frowning at him as he pinned the guy with his hardest look. If she couldn’t pick good from bad, he was going to have to save her. Whether she wanted him to or not was irrelevant.
Although the guy flinched at Jake’s silent promise of violence, it didn’t stop him from saying, “Be sure to save a dance for me, gorgeous,” before he walked away.
Jake held on to his control by a very thin thread. Nothing would feel better than to jump over the bar and tackle the guy to teach him what happened when he flirted with the wrong girl. A girl who was too sweet, too pretty, too damn perfect for him to ever even think of touching one hair on her head.
“You’re not dancing with him,” he growled. “Not tonight. Not ever.”
“I’m a big girl, Jake. I’ll dance with whomever I want.”
Serving the customer always took priority. But not this time. “Sammy,” he called out across the reception area, motioning for his employee to take over the bar again. He didn’t wait for Sam to make it to the bar before wrapping his hand around Sophie’s wrist and pulling her out from behind the bar. He didn’t stop walking until they were hidden behind a large storage shed, just on the edge of the reception area.
“You are not getting within a hundred feet of that guy again.”
Anger flared in her eyes. Eyes that had been full of happy tears, full of pure joy, just a short while ago. “You can’t tell me what to do.”
“Like hell I can’t.”
She yanked her arm from his and started to walk away, but he couldn’t let her go. Not when she was bound to do something stupid, like kiss a smarmy doctor. Furious at the picture of anyone else touching Sophie, instead of just grabbing her wrist or her shoulders, this time Jake wrapped his arms all the way around her and pulled her into him. He held her tight, her chest pushing into his forearms, her height matching his so that her hips fit perfectly between his open legs, her soft hips pressing into his groin.
“Let go of me.”
The word was muffled by her hair, so soft, so silky against his chin and lips. And the truth was, he couldn’t have let go of her for the world. Not just because he didn’t want that other guy touching her…but because he’d never wanted to hold anyone more than he did Sophie.
How long had he dreamed of holding her? Too many years to keep count. And yet, he’d never had a clue just how incredibly good she would feel in his arms, her dangerous curves pressed into him, her chest rising and falling against his arms.
“I’m not going to let you go until you promise me you’ll stay away from him.”
Now it was her turn to say, “No.”
He shifted his hand enough to slip a finger beneath her chin and turn her face so that he could look into her eyes. “Promise me, Sophie. It’s for your own good.”
Sophie yanked her face away from his hand, then her whole body, and when she turned to face him head-on, her eyes were flashing. “I can’t believe you just said that! Especially since you of all people have no idea whatsoever what’s good for me.”
His mouth was on hers before he could put the brakes on his desire.
…Excerpt from I ONLY HAVE EYES FOR YOU by Bella Andre ©2012.
Book #5: If You Were Mine
The last thing Zach Sullivan wants is to take care of his brother’s new puppy for two weeks. Until he meets the dog trainer, that is. Heather is bright, beautiful, and he can’t stop thinking about her. Unfortunately, she just might be the only woman on earth who wants nothing to do with him.
Heather Linsey can’t believe she’s stuck working with one of the city’s top dogs, auto-shop tycoon Zach Sullivan. Especially when his focus is clear from the start—not only to learn how to deal with his temporary puppy…but also to make her his. Having sworn off love at seventeen when she realized it was nothing more than a pack of lies, Heather has stuck to her vow never to fall for a charming man.
But as Heather’s determination to push Zach away only fuels his determination to get closer—and the sensual and emotional connection between them grows more and more undeniable—will the biggest Sullivan bad boy of all tempt her into believing in love again?
Read an Excerpt
There were half a dozen girls in bikinis waiting in Zach’s garage, but the woman laughing with his dog in her arms, wearing a sweaty, long-sleeved T-shirt and muddy shorts, with a messy braid trailing down her back, put them all to shame.
He couldn’t think of a time he’d ever seen eyes that color, brown with so many flecks of gold that he couldn’t look away. And, Jesus, that mouth of hers, rosy and full, made a man want to do crazy things…like grab the puppy and kiss it all over its drooly, disgusting little face for bringing Heather here today.
He’d been pissed off at Gabe and Summer for dumping the dog on him for two weeks. Now he realized he should thank them, instead.
Unlike most women, however, he could tell Heather wanted nothing to do with him. Fortunately, her dog didn’t seem to have any of the same qualms, especially when he sniffed the glazed sugar on Zach’s fingers from the donut he’d been eating for breakfast.
“Hey, mutt,” Zach said, thinking fast, “I left the rest of my donut on the counter inside. You want it?”
The huge dog’s ears twitched as if he understood, but he didn’t move. Instead, he looked up at Heather for approval.
Clearly, she was gearing up to refuse. But, man, that huge dog could play up the puppy dog eyes when he wanted to. Zach was impressed. He’d have to remember how to do that in the future.
Her dog let out a low whine and Heather finally sighed and said, “Okay, fine. Go.” As she let go of his leash and the enormous dog loped off toward the garage, she followed him, still carrying Cuddles.
“I get that you weren’t prepared for a puppy, but I can’t leave her with you if you’re going to put her in a crate all day. She needs to understand how to stay with you so she doesn’t get hurt by something in the garage. You’re going to need to work on training her to understand your commands. And you’re going to have to do it without yelling at her.” She shot him a hard look. “Ever again.”
He would agree with whatever Heather said just as long as she stayed long enough for him to convince her to give him a chance. He couldn’t remember ever wanting a woman this bad, this fast.
“Hey Chase,” he told his brother, “I’ve got to call off the shoot.”
The models looked at his brother in confusion and Chase told them to take five before saying, “Chloe is going to have the baby any day now, and then I’m out of commission for a while. You sure you want to reschedule?”
Despite her ongoing protests that she was fine, Zach was already kneeling in front of Heather and gently wiping at the open skin on her knee with an antiseptic wipe from a nearby First Aid kit.
“I’ve got to clear my schedule for puppy training.”
“Seriously?” Heather blinked at him like he was driving on three wheels. “That’s why you’re sending everyone home? Isn’t your boss going to be mad?”
“Agnes didn’t mention my last name, did she?”
Her eyes widened with disbelief as she looked from him to the sign on the wall, then back again. “You’re the Sullivan in Sullivan Autos? This is your garage?”
“Don’t worry, I know cars a lot better than I know dogs.”
But he knew women best of all. And, he thought as he slid a Band-Aid strip over her left knee, he couldn’t wait to get his hands on more than Heather’s knees. Because even as he cleaned and bandaged her cuts, her skin was so warm, so soft, so responsive to his touch.
After he slid another Band-Aid strip over her silky smooth skin, he held out his arms. “Now that the shoot’s off, I’m all yours to train.”
Most women would have been pleased by the sensual undertones in his words, or would at least have blushed, but she simply glared at him with icy cool eyes.
Cuddles yawned and curled closer into her chest. What Zach wouldn’t do to be where the puppy was.
She shifted her legs out of his reach. “You can’t cancel your photo shoot. You’ll lose too much money.” She stood up and grabbed her dog’s leash again. “Atlas, it’s time to go.”
Damn it, she was going to leave. Panic gripped him, even though he’d only just met her, even though he could easily find another woman to have sex with. “Heather—”
She frowned as she looked down at where he was still kneeling on the cement floor. “Since you can’t keep Cuddles here while you’re—” She paused to look at the models chain smoking and talking on their cell phones in the parking lot. “—working, I’ll take her to my office. When she wakes up, she can play with Atlas until you get there for our first session.”
She told him the address, then made a clicking sound that had her huge dog following her out of the garage with an adoring look on his furry face.
Zach understood exactly how the dog felt. One sign from her and he’d happily do the same thing.
His brother moved beside him and, together, they watched Heather leave, her long braid swinging behind her, her legs strong and tanned in her shorts.
Zach grinned. “My new dog trainer.”
And, hopefully, a hell of a lot more than that real soon.
…Excerpt from IF YOU WERE MINE by Bella Andre ©2012.
Book #6: Let Me Be The One
When Vicki Bennett saved Ryan Sullivan’s life as a teenager, it was the beginning of a close friendship that never wavered despite her failed marriage to someone else and Ryan’s well-earned reputation as a ladies man. So when she suddenly needs a pretend boyfriend to protect herself and her career from a powerful man’s advances, he is the only person she can imagine asking.
Ryan will do anything to protect Vicki from harm, but when their “fake” kisses and caresses lead to an incredibly sensual night that neither of them can resist, will he have made the biggest mistake of all by irreparably jeopardizing their friendship? Or is it possible that what they’ve both been looking for has been right there the whole time…and the perfect combination of wicked and sweet, friendship and love, is finally within reach?
Read an Excerpt
Fifteen years ago, Palo Alto High School
Victoria Bennett couldn’t take her eyes off Ryan Sullivan, who was laughing with some of the guys on his baseball team, as she headed through the high school parking lot toward the art store on University Avenue.
None of the other girls in her tenth-grade class could take their eyes off him, either, so at least she didn’t stick out. Not for that reason, anyway. Her clay-stained fingers and clothes—along with the “new girl” sign she felt like she was wearing during her first few weeks at every new school—did that with no help whatsoever from Ryan…or his ridiculously good looks.
Normally, she could have gotten over his pretty face without much trouble. As an artist, she always worked to look beneath the surface of things, to try to find out what was really at the heart of a painting or sculpture or song. That went for people, too. Especially boys who, as far as she could tell, only ever told a girl what they wanted to hear for one reason.
No, what had her stuck on Ryan Sullivan was the fact that he was always laughing. Somehow, without being the class clown, he had a gift for putting people at ease and making them feel good.
Before she could catch herself, she put her fingers to her lips…and wondered what it would feel like if he kissed her.
She yanked her hand away from her mouth. Not just because dreaming of his kisses was borderline pathetic given the utter unlikelihood of that scenario, but because she needed to stay focused on her art.
She wasn’t just another tenth grader mooning over the hottest boy in school.
She was studying her muse.
Vicki had never been much interested in sculpting formal busts before. Old, dead, overly serious guys in gray didn’t really do it for her. But it had only taken a few minutes near Ryan at lunch her first day on campus to be inspired to capture his laughter in clay. She wished she could get closer to all that easy joy—if only to figure out how to translate it from her mind’s eye to the clay beneath her fingers.
Yes, she thought with a small smile, she was perfectly willing to suffer for her art. Especially if it meant staring at Ryan Sullivan.
The light turned from red to green and she could have picked up her pace and made it across the street. Only, she’d been having such trouble getting the corners of the eyes and mouth just right on her Laughing Boy sculpture. Knowing there wasn’t a chance that Ryan or his friends would notice her, rather than leaving the school grounds, she closed the distance between them in as nonchalant a manner as she could, while surreptitiously watching him from beneath the veil of the bangs that had grown too long over her eyes during the summer.
A few seconds later, his friends high-fived him and walked away. Ryan bent down to finish packing up a long, narrow black bag at his feet, which she guessed held his baseball stuff.
What, she wondered on an appreciative sigh at the way the muscles on his forearms and shoulders flexed as he picked up the bag, would happen if she talked to him? And what would he say if she outright asked him to pose for her?
She was on the verge of laughing out loud at her crazy thoughts when she heard a squeal coming from the parking lot. In a split second she realized an out-of-control car was whipping straight toward Ryan.
There wasn’t time to plan, or to think. Vicki sprinted across the several feet between them and threw herself at him.
Fortunately, Ryan’s natural athleticism kicked in right away. Even though she was the one trying to pull him out of the way, less than a heartbeat later he was lifting her and practically throwing her across the grass before leaping to cover her body with his.
She scrunched her eyes tightly shut as the car careened past, so close that she could feel the hairs on her arms lifting in its wake. Breathing hard, Vicki clung to Ryan. Wetness moved across her cheeks and she belatedly realized tears must have sprung up from landing so hard on the grass.
The seconds ticked by as if in slow motion, one hard, thudding heartbeat after another from Ryan’s chest to hers and then back again from hers to his. He was so strong, so warm, so beautifully real. She wanted to lie like this with him forever, more intimately, closer than she’d ever been with another boy.
Only, voices were rising in pitch all around her, and suddenly, the reality of what had just happened hit.
Oh my God, they’d both almost died!
She was starting to feel faint when he lifted his head and smiled down at her.
“Hi, I’m Ryan.”
The way he said it, as if she didn’t already know who he was, pierced through her shock. He acted like it was normal to be sprawled over a girl. Which, she suddenly realized, it probably was. For him.
Definitely not for her, though.
Her lips were dry and she had to lick them once, twice, before saying, “I’m Victoria.” The words, “But my friends call me Vicki,” slipped out before she could pull them back in.
His smile widened and her heart started beating even faster. Not from shock this time, but from pure, unfettered teenage hormones kicked into overdrive by his beautiful smile.
“Thank you for saving my life, Vicki.” A moment later, his smile disappeared as he took in her tear-streaked cheeks. The eyes that she’d seen filled with laughter so many times during the first two weeks of school grew serious. “I hurt you.”
She would have told him no, and that she was fine, but all breath and words were stolen from her the instant he brushed his fingertips over her cheeks to wipe away her tears.
Somehow, she managed to shake her head, and to get her lips to form the word no, even though no sound followed.
His laughing eyes were dark now, and more intense than she’d ever seen them. “Are you sure? I didn’t mean to land so hard on you.”
How was she supposed to keep her brain working when he’d begun the slow, shockingly sweet process of running his hands over the back of her skull, and then down to her shoulders and upper arms?
One more word. That was all she needed to get out to answer his question.
“Good.” His voice was deeper, richer, than any of the other fifteen-year-old boys. “I’m glad.”
But as he stared down at her, his expression continued to grow even more intense and she found herself holding her breath.
Was he going to kiss her now? Had her life just turned into the quintessential after-school-special fantasy, the one where the artsy girl caught the eye of the jock and the whole school was turned upside down by their unlikely but ultimately perfect and inevitable pairing?
“One day, when you need me most, I promise I’ll be there for you, Vicki.”
Oh. She swallowed hard. Oh my.
He hadn’t given her a kiss…but his promise felt more important than a mere kiss would have been.
Before she realized it, he was standing up again and holding out a hand to help her up, too. Instantly missing his heat, the hard muscles pressing into her softer ones, all the lies she’d been trying to tell herself about Ryan simply being a muse scattered out of reach.
“Can I walk you home?”
Surprised that he wanted to spend more time with her, she quickly shook her head.
He looked equally surprised by her response, likely because no girl on earth had ever turned him down.
“No, I can’t walk you home?”
She fumbled to explain. “I’m not going home. I was actually heading over to the art store to pick up some supplies for a new sculpt—”
She barely stopped herself from rambling on about her latest project. Why would Ryan Sullivan care? Besides, she reminded her racing heart with brutal honesty, he probably had some pretty cheerleaders waiting on him. And they wouldn’t need an out-of-control car to get him to lie down on top of them.
Because no matter how tempting it was to believe that she had suddenly been cast in a happy-ever-after fairytale romance, the truth was that getting that close to Ryan had been nothing more than a fluke of fate.
And Vicki remained the star of her artsy, and often lonely, move-to-a-new-town-every-year-with-her-military-family teenage life.
Only, for some strange reason she couldn’t understand, Ryan wasn’t running in the opposite direction yet. Probably because he felt like he owed her after she’d saved his life. After all, hadn’t he just told her that he would be there for her one day when she really needed him?
“What are you getting supplies for?” He asked the question as though he were truly interested, not just acting like it because he felt he should.
“I’m making a—” Wait, she couldn’t tell him what she was making. Because she was sculpting him. “I work with clay. Lately, I’ve been trying to capture specific facial expressions.”
Never in a million years did she think she’d ever speak to him, let alone have this long a conversation. But, what shocked her most of all was just how comfortable she felt with him. Even with all of her teenage hormones on high alert, Ryan was, simply, the easiest person she’d ever been around.
And she wanted more time with him than just five stolen minutes on the high school lawn.
Her nerves were starting to back off a bit by the time she told him, “I started with all the usual expressions every artist knows best.” She played it up for him. “Tears. Pain. Suffering. Existential nothingness.”
His laughter made her feel like she could float all the way to the art store and back.
“Oh yeah,” she joked back, “it’s a riot. Which is why I’m trying something different now.” She took a breath before admitting, “I’m working on laughter.”
“Laughter, huh?” He grinned at her. “I like it. How’s it going?”
Being so close to the full wattage of his smile made her breath catch in her throat. In an effort to cover her all-too-obvious reaction to him, she scrunched up her face. “Put it this way, I think I’ve started to resemble all those other expressions.”
“Even the existential nothingness one?”
As if she were watching the two of them from a distance, Vicki knew she’d always look back to that moment as the one that mattered most. The one where she fell head over heels in love with Ryan Sullivan. And not because of his beautiful outside.
But because he’d listened.
And, even better, because he’d appreciated.
“Especially that one,” she replied.
He picked up her bag from the grass. “Sounds awesome. Mind if I tag along?”
Okay, so maybe the two of them didn’t add up on paper, but Vicki couldn’t deny that they had clicked.
“Sure,” she said, “if you don’t have anywhere else you have to be.”
He slung his equipment bag over his other shoulder and walked beside her. “Nothing more important than hanging out with a new friend.”
This time, she was the one grinning at him. In the two weeks since she’d moved to Palo Alto with her family, she hadn’t done a very good job of making friends at the high school. As an Army brat who moved more years than not, she’d stopped making the effort a long time ago when she realized how hard it was to not only break into fully formed cliques, but also to maintain long-distance friendships once she inevitably left town.
Ryan made everything seem so easy, though, as if the only thing that wouldn’t make sense was their not hanging out.
By the end of their trip to the art store and back, she knew all about his seven siblings, he knew she had two annoying little brothers, he’d told her what he liked about baseball, she’d told him what she loved about sculpting, and she’d been invited to dinner at the Sullivan house.
It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
The best one she’d ever had.
* * *
Present day, San Francisco
Ryan Sullivan threw his car keys to the valet as he shot past him. The young man’s eyes widened as he realized that he was not only about to drive a Ferrari into the underground parking lot, but that it belonged to one of his sports idols.
“Mr. Sullivan, sir, don’t you need your valet tag?”
Ryan took his responsibilities to the fans seriously and made it a point never to let them down. But tonight the only thing that mattered was Vicki. Even though a half-dozen missed connections over the years had kept them from meeting up again in person after high school, they’d kept in touch through email and phone calls.
Vicki was his friend.
And he wouldn’t let anyone hurt one of his friends.
Ryan pushed through the dark glass doors to the exclusive hotel foyer and made himself stop long enough to do a quick scan of the glittering room. The Pacific Union Club wasn’t his kind of place—it was pretentious as all hell—and he hadn’t thought it would be Vicki’s usual stomping grounds, either.
So why was she here? And why hadn’t she told him she was finally coming back to Northern California after so many years in Europe?
He’d been hanging at his brother Chase’s new baby celebration when her texts had come in.
I need your help. Come quick.
Ryan had cursed every one of the thirty-five miles into the city from his mother’s house on the Peninsula. He’d texted Vicki again and again to get more information, and to make sure that she was okay, but she hadn’t replied.
He couldn’t remember the last time he’d been so worried about anyone…or so ready to do battle. Vicki wasn’t the kind of woman who cried wolf. She wouldn’t have sent him those texts just to try to get his attention. She was the only woman he’d ever known apart from his sisters and mother who had ever been completely real with him, and who didn’t want anything from him besides his friendship.
His large hands were tight fists as he surveyed the cocktail lounge, his jaw clenched tight.
Damn it, where was she?
If anyone had touched Vicki the wrong way, or hurt her even the slightest bit, Ryan would make them pay.
He was famous for being not only the winningest pitcher in the National Baseball League, but also one of the most laid-back. Very few people had a clue about Ryan’s hidden edges, but it wouldn’t take much more to set him off tonight.
He grabbed the first person in uniform, his grip hard enough on the young man’s upper arm that he winced. “Is there a private meeting room?”
The young man stuttered, “Y-yes, sir.”
“Where is it?”
His hand shook as he pointed. “On the back side of the bar, but it’s already reserved toni—”
Ryan hightailed it through the lounge and it shouldn’t have been that hard to get through the crowd, but it seemed that every single person in the room either got up to buy another drink or was trying to get his attention.
When he found a subtly hidden door just to the side of the bar, he nearly knocked it off its hinges in his hurry to open it.
Ryan saw the flash of Vicki’s long blond hair first, her killer curves second.
Thank God, she was here, and in one piece.
But his relief was short-lived when he realized he’d interrupted her and her cocktail companion just as the man’s hand was sliding onto her thigh.
Vicki jumped off her seat as Ryan strode into the room. The terror that had been on her face when the other man touched her leg slowly morphed into relief at his arrival.
Her companion, on the other hand, was clearly surprised to see Ryan…and he wasn’t happy about it, either. The man was probably in his fifties and was obviously loaded. Or at least wanted people to think he was, holding meetings in a place like this, wearing a handmade suit.
Quickly conjuring up an expression of surprise, Vicki said, “What are you doing here so early, honey?”
…Excerpt from LET ME BE THE ONE by Bella Andre ©2012.
Book #7: Come A Little Bit Closer
***Hot New Release***
Movie star Smith Sullivan can’t afford any distractions. He’s staking his entire reputation on his new film…but he can’t stop thinking about Valentina Landon and the fire he sees smoldering just beneath the surface.
Valentina isn’t averse to sensual pleasure, or even to the idea of finding true love, but as a Hollywood business manager she’s watched too many smart women fall for actors…only to be torn apart when the fairytale comes to its inevitable end.
But when intense weeks together on set turn their heated attraction into red-hot flames of passion, Smith knows he has to find a way to convince Valentina to let him get a little bit closer. Close enough to completely steal her heart…the way she’s stolen his from the start.
Read an Excerpt
Gravity was the story Smith Sullivan had been waiting his entire career to tell. It wasn’t a big-budget, smash ’em up blockbuster. Nor was it a period film with impeccably researched costumes and accents. Instead, it was a pure, honest story about love and family and what really mattered.
And he was staking his entire reputation on the deceptively simple story.
If ever there was a time for focus, for pure and total concentration, it was now and through the next eight weeks of filming. He couldn’t afford to let anything—or anyone—distract him from making the best movie he had in him.
Only, as he followed Valentina to his trailer, her waist, hips, and legs gorgeous in her form-fitting pencil skirt, he already knew holding that intense focus wasn’t going to be easy.
Valentina Landon had attracted him from the start with her exotic looks which she downplayed into cool, businesslike reserve. He couldn’t miss the slightly seductive tone to her voice, or the fact that her scent was pure, rich sensuality. If she thought she was putting anyone off with her suits, soft golden hair pulled back into a simple ponytail, and the thick-framed glasses she slid on when she was poring over contracts, she was way off base.
Didn’t she know that all those carefully constructed conservative elements made a guy like him want to find out just how deep her passions ran? Especially when she was so intent on hiding them. Not, of course, that she’d even come close to letting him find out the answer to that question.
During rehearsals, she was always either with her sister or making her way out of a room the second he walked into it. He’d been impressed with her business acumen during the past weeks with regard to Tatiana’s career, as well as how well she took care of her sister on a personal level. Valentina didn’t hover, but at the same time, she was there whenever Tatiana needed her.
As the second-oldest brother in a family of eight siblings, Smith knew just how hard it was to watch over his brothers and sisters while also letting them spread their wings and live their lives without his constant interference. Family meant the world to him, but he craved his independence, and his work, too. It was a constant balancing act, but one he wouldn’t have given up for all the peace and quiet and spare time in the world.
From the beginning of his career just after college, he’d started with whatever scraps he could get and built on from there. He knew people thought he’d been handed his acting career, that his looks had paved the road with gold bricks and Hollywood stars. In truth, those looks had made being taken seriously so difficult that after the first couple of years of countless auditions, he’d almost taken one of the dozens of underwear commercials he’d been offered. Until, finally, an older actor had given him his chance to prove that he was more than just a pretty face. Smith had grabbed that chance with both hands, and when the movie was a box office hit, other doors finally started to open.
It was one of the reasons he’d been so interested in casting Tatiana Landon. Yes, Valentina’s younger sister was beautiful. No question, she was going to be a star, one way or another. But when she worked, he saw several qualities in her that he recognized and admired. Determination. Concentration. And joy.
Yes, he thought, as Valentina threw open his trailer door without waiting for him to let her inside, there was much to admire about the Landon women.Particularly the older sister he hadn’t been able to get out of his head since he’d met her in that initial casting meeting two months ago.
Talk about determination and concentration. Valentina had clearly taught her sister everything she knew. And when Valentina was with Tatiana, when they were laughing together the way sisters did when they were very close, her own joy rang out loud and clear.
Smith had just stepped inside and closed the door behind him when Valentina turned and faced him down.
“My sister is not going to become one of your little playthings.”
Momentarily taken aback, Smith simply echoed, “Playthings?”
Valentina didn’t have the obvious, more conventional beauty of her younger sister, but to Smith that made her face even more alluring. A man had to look under the surface with Valentina, but once he did, he was paid back richly with the contours of high cheekbones, incredibly long, unpainted lashes, eyes that tilted up slightly at the corners, and a cupid’s bow on full lips that couldn’t help but whisper of sex and heat no matter how tightly they were pursed.
Just the way they were right this second, in fact.
“Tatiana and I have been in this business for ten years,” she said in a frosty voice. “I know exactly how this world works, Mr. Sullivan.”
He had to cut her off, then, if only because he hated the way she used the Mr. as yet another way to keep distance between them. Not another damn person on his set called him Mr. Sullivan. He wouldn’t let her do it, either, whatever her reasons for wanting to keep her distance.
“Call me Smith. Please.”
Her mouth tightened even further, her eyes flashing yet again even as she nodded and said, in a very soft voice, “Smith.” Her long, slender fingers twisted in her grip as she stared back at him. “You’re older. You’re successful. You’re extremely good look—”
She stopped just short of the full word and it was all but impossible to keep himself from smirking just a little bit. And from saying, “Thank you, Valentina. I’m glad to know you think so.”
Her eyes widened at the way he spoke her name, with more than a little heat. Any woman looking for his attention would have noticed she had it weeks ago. Then again, she hadn’t been looking for his attention—had stopped just short of running from it, in fact.
Valentina was the opposite of every woman he knew in Hollywood. Instead of trying to draw attention to herself, she worked to keep it away. Smith had transformed himself into so many different characters over the course of his career that he knew all it would take were a few simple changes to her hair, clothes, makeup, and the way she held her body as she stood across from him, to shift her message from back off to come closer.
She was an incredibly intelligent woman. Only, despite that, he didn’t think she realized just how much the mystery of her was drawing him in, making him want to discover who she really was. And why she was so intent on deflecting the male attention she deserved. Especially his.
Nor did she realize just how refreshing it was to finally meet a woman who wasn’t beyond eager and ready to throw herself at Smith Sullivan’s feet. Especially just when he’d been worried there wasn’t a woman alive who could see beyond his fame and all the shiny things that came with it.
Now, as he watched her work to bank her anger, it occurred to him what an excellent actress she would have been. Emotion simmered just beneath the surface of her eyes, her mouth, her skin, all covered with an outward calm that could fool even the closest observer. A shared family trait, though one Valentina had perfected for real life, whereas her sister merely played it out for the camera.
One sister so contained, the other so open.
Smith couldn’t help but wonder—had Valentina sacrificed her own openness so that her sister could have such freedom?
She gestured to the pile of phone numbers that littered his desk, her upper lip curling slightly. “You have plenty of women falling for you. More than enough for any man to enjoy making his way through.”
If he hadn’t been in a hurry earlier that morning, he would have thrown the numbers away instead of just dumping them on his desk. With anyone else, he likely would have explained just that. But he found he didn’t like having to defend himself to Valentina, especially when he hadn’t done anything wrong.
“I meant it when I told you I wanted you to come to me if anything was wrong,” he said in an even voice. “I’m glad you felt comfortable enough to pull me aside this morning, but I’m afraid I don’t yet understand what’s bothering you.”
“I’ll tell you exactly what’s bothering me: You and I both know the power you hold. We also both know that my sister is perfect in this film.”
He nodded in agreement. “You just heard me tell her that.”
“And it meant the world to her.” But instead of looking happy about it, a flash of deep-seated worry crossed Valentina’s face. “Tatiana looks up to you. She has never been so committed to a production. All she wants is to do her best for you, and I know she’s going to give a thousand percent to do just that.” Her gaze was direct, unblinking, as she said, “And in return, I want you to give me your word that you will not cross any professional lines with her.”
Damn it, he hadn’t signed Tatiana to star in his film with nefarious plans of seduction. He’d signed her because she was a great actress who was going to get better and better.
Were it not for two unfounded accusations in the span of minutes, he would have taken the time to answer Valentina more carefully. But as it stood, she’d been questioning his honor since the first second he’d met her sister. Silently, perhaps, but it had been there nonetheless.
His honor was everything to him, and now he felt like a bear poked one too many times by a long stick, coming out of his lair grumpy and with teeth bared in warning. Which was why he gave her an answer he knew was bound to aggravate more than soothe.
“Your sister has already signed the contracts.”
Instead of backing off at what many people would have construed as a warning, Valentina came closer to him, so close that he could smell the lavender in her shampoo.
“I asked around about you before we signed on for this movie. Everyone told me you were different.” Her eyes slid again to the phone numbers on his desk, then back to him. “But you’re just the same as everybody else, aren’t you?” Fire leapt to new heights in her eyes as she told him, “I don’t give a damn what she’s signed. If you do one single thing to hurt my sister, if you dare toy with her emotions or her body, I’ll—”
“Damn it, Valentina,” he said in a voice loud enough to break through to her, “I’m not going to seduce your sister!” He had to work to gentle his voice as he said, “Tatiana is young and beautiful and I’m going to work like hell to make sure she wins an Oscar for her performance in my movie. But I don’t want her.”
And yet, even as he reassured her about his intentions toward her sister, there was no way for him to keep the silent words I want you from hanging in the air between them.
He was sure that was what had her taking a step away from him as she said, “I saw the way you grabbed her and kissed her after the scene. And I saw the way she looked at you—like you hold the key to the secrets of the universe.”
It was because he had two sisters and a mother he loved that he realized just how badly he’d misplayed this situation with Valentina. Instead of going on the defensive and throwing the signed contracts in her face like the big bad movie star who only had to snap his fingers for the world to fall at his feet, he should have done whatever he could to reassure her that Tatiana was in safe hands.
“Your sister did such a great job with the first scene that I got excited, and I wanted her to know how thrilled I am to be working with her. But I honestly don’t think she took my enthusiasm for her performance in the way you thought she did.”
He could see that Valentina was still wary, but she took a deep breath and finally backed down enough to say, “I sure hope not.”
He’d thought her eyes were a dimmer green than her sister’s, but now he could see that they were a beautiful hazel, a clear green on the inside, deep brown on the outside. Smith had never been much interested in perfect, even less so after so many years in Hollywood where people hired doctors to rip them open and put them back together until they looked like the dolls his sisters had played with as kids.
He was also finally close enough to see the slightly dark smudges beneath the delicate skin under her eyes.
“It’s got to be exhausting being your sister’s watchdog all the time.”
“I’m not her watchdog. I’m her sister and I love her. I—” She sighed, letting her exhaustion come through for a moment. “I just need to make sure she’s safe. Always.”
“Your sister is lucky to have you to protect her, Valentina. But who’s protecting you?”
Her eyes met his again, wide with surprise…and an answering desire that she could no longer effectively mask as her hazel eyes dilated until the green near her pupil pushed out all of the brown along the rim.
Hot damn if he didn’t want to kiss her beautiful mouth as she lifted her chin and her eyes flashed at him one more time.
“I don’t need anybody to protect me.”
She walked out of his trailer without a backward glance.
…Excerpt from COME A LITTLE BIT CLOSER by Bella Andre ©2012.
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