The Player Cover Reveal and Chapters Excerpt

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The Player Cover Reveal and Chapters Excerpt

Coming June 2, 2015!!!

ThePlayer .50

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Blurb:
Book two in the USA Today bestselling The Wedding Pact series.

Divorce attorney Blair Hansen is convinced that marriage should be based on practicality, not passion. But as her own wedding approaches, she finds herself remembering her law school boyfriend, the only man she’s ever loved, and regretting what might have been. Then a twist of fate lands Garrett back in her life, and the man who loomed large in her past is suddenly casting a shadow over her wedding, making her question everything. To complicate matters further, the job she loves is in peril, and she can feel the ‘perfect’ life she’s fashioned for herself start to crumble under her feet. Could everything she’s believed about life and love be wrong?

Garrett Lowry is a divorce attorney who’s ready to settle down. The problem is that he can’t find a woman who suits him nearly as well as the one he loved and lost. He broke her heart by playing the field after their break up—something he’s always regretted. But after months of pining for Blair, Garrett stumbles across her in a freak coincidence—and then destiny keeps throwing them together, the coincidences becoming ever more unlikely. He’s convinced it’s a sign they should give their love a second chance, but Blair is engaged to another man—a man who is absolutely wrong for her.

Can Garrett convince Blair that a player once isn’t a player forever, and that happy endings aren’t just for dreamers?

*****

Excerpt:

Chapter One

Blair Hansen had always heard that near death experiences made people reevaluate their lives. She’d spent nearly thirty years sure about what she wanted in life, but all it had taken for her to start questioning everything was some severe turbulence on a 747.

She picked up her whiskey and took a healthy sip. No girly drinks for her. Blair had forced herself to drink whiskey until she liked it. Being tough—and letting other people know it—was how she’d gotten where she was in life. Which was currently in a hotel bar in Phoenix, Arizona, waiting to hear if they had a room for her to spend the night.

Of course, she wasn’t supposed to be away from home at all, let alone in Phoenix. She was getting married in five days, so her bosses had agreed to let her have a short four-day work week in their office in Kansas City, but then the senior partner had called her on Sunday afternoon with instructions to board a plane to Los Angeles. And that’s exactly what she had done. Despite the fact she had a million and one things to do for her wedding. Robert Sisco didn’t want to hear excuses. Sisco, Sisco, and Reece only wanted to hear yes and see lots of dollar signs on checks, and her understanding of that fact was one of the reasons she was so close to making junior partner. They didn’t want her wedding to interfere with her work. Even if they were the primary reason she was getting married in the first place. Partners were typically married, which probably had something to do with the illusion of stability and maturity. It was all a bunch of hooey, but Blair Hansen really wanted to be a partner.

She took another gulp of her drink, the ice clinking against her glass because of her shaking hand.

The thing was, she’d realized something. Her future life had flashed before her eyes in those awful minutes on board the plane, and she hadn’t liked the look of it.

Now she wasn’t so sure she wanted to get married after all.

On paper, Dr. Neil Fredrick was perfect for her. Educated, personable, stable. Conservative politically and fiscally. Neil was a firm believer in playing it safe. And stability was exactly what Blair wanted after bearing witness to her parents’ chaotic marriage—her father’s affairs, her parents’ subsequent divorce, and finally her father’s death, which had practically bankrupted the family.

But lately, she found herself wanting something…more.

She blamed it on her best friend Megan. Megan had gotten married two months ago, though not to her original groom. Their story was the kind of gushy, too-cute-to-be-true, fairy-tale romance that wasn’t supposed to happen in real life. But for Megan, the impossible had happened. The weekend of her wedding, she’d boarded a plane home to tell her parents that she and her cheating asshole fiancé had broken up. After imbibing several drinks and a large dose of Dramamine on the plane, she passed out and was carried off-board by her gorgeous seatmate, who filled in as her substitute fiancé. By the end of the week, Josh had become her real husband and the two were still nauseatingly happy.

Gag.

Still, Blair couldn’t dismiss that their wild and crazy love had put a crack in her belief that she had the perfect arrangement—a crack that was starting to spider web. She and Neil had separate apartments, and although Neil had begun spending more time at her place, he remained surprisingly stubborn about keeping his after they were married.

A memory from a couple of months ago intruded on her, tapping directly on that crack in the glass.

“My apartment is closer to the hospital, Blair,” Neil had said matter-of-factly, sipping his morning coffee. “It will be easier for the nights I’m on call.”

It was hard to argue with his logic—and his stoic logic had always been one of his more attractive traits—but it still seemed…wrong. If they were unifying their lives in other ways, why keep separate places? And she knew how it would seem to everyone else.

“But the money—”

“The mortgage on my condo is more than covered by my salary, and the neighborhood is up-and-coming,” he had said, his eyes still glued on his newspaper. “If I hold onto it for another five years, there’s a chance it will double in value. It makes financial sense to keep it.”

At the time, she’d wanted to point out that he could rent it, and anyway, her condo was only twenty minutes from the hospital. He’d already vehemently nixed the idea of sharing his place. According to Neil, the loft was a bachelor pad, and they needed to have a home worthy of entertaining their friends and family. Not that they were known for their dinner parties.

But pointing out those facts would only have instigated an argument. And one of the best parts of their relationship was that they rarely argued. Her job was taxing and full of dissent; when she came home, she coveted peace. And if she were truly honest with herself, a small part of her approved of the living arrangements. Now that he was staying at her apartment on a more consistent basis, she’d begun to find his presence surprisingly suffocating and his previously cute quirks—like the precise way he chewed his food or how he had to have the remote control positioned a very exact way on the coffee table—irritating as hell. But that was normal. As a divorce attorney, she knew better than to expect marriage would be a roller coaster of excitement.

In fact, if she’d learned anything from her work, it was this: the couples who ended up divorcing after just a year or two were usually the ones who’d been head-over-heels, drawing-hearts-on-everything in love when they approached the altar. Megan’s delirious happiness aside, there was no such thing as true love.

If there were, she would still be with Garrett Lowry.

She clanked her now empty glass on the bar to get the bartender’s attention. “Another, please.”

He shot her a grin as he poured her drink. “Must have been some kind of Monday.”

She grabbed the glass out of his hands. “You have no idea.”

The deposition had run nearly two hours longer than planned, and she’d barely made it to LAX in time to catch her plane. Her feeling of relief had been short lived; the severe turbulence had convinced her and most of the other passengers they were about to meet their maker. By the time they landed in Phoenix, many of the connecting flights had been cancelled or delayed, and Blair discovered she was stuck overnight in Arizona. The airline had sent her to this hotel, but there had been a problem at the check-in desk.

Half her whiskey was gone before she realized it. There were so many things she needed to do in Kansas City, and she wouldn’t get back until at least mid-morning, which meant she’d have to rush to get to her morning deposition. To make matters worse, the damn airline hadn’t even confirmed her on the six a.m. flight. They’d only made a vague promise to text her around four in the morning to confirm if she had a ticket.

So now she was well on her way to getting drunk in the bar of an Embassy Suites, playing another round of This is Your Life, Blair Anne Myers Hansen, and she wasn’t too happy with what she saw.

Practical, pragmatic, sensible Blair wanted a heart stopping, butterflies-in-her-stomach kind of love.

All that turbulence must have rattled her brains.

But she couldn’t deny the fact that she’d been thinking of Garrett a lot over the last two months—much more than the asshole deserved. Truth be told, he was the only man she’d ever loved. And look how that had turned out. Five years later, she could finally admit to the role she’d played in their break-up, but that didn’t make it suck any less.

The rift had formed the night Blair received word of her estranged father’s death. Rather than share the news with Garrett when he came over, she lashed out at him, picking a fight over some nitpicky complaint. Anger had always been her go-to reaction, and Garrett had weathered many a storm, but that night he’d responded with a fire equal to her own. The fight spiraled out of control, and before she realized what was happening, Garrett was packing the toiletries and clothes he kept at her apartment into a duffel bag. And then he was gone.

She spent the next day drowning in an emotional fog of dismay, grief, and loss, even skipping classes—something she never did. After hours of stewing in her turbulent emotions, she realized she felt an intense ache for Garrett. For the first time ever, she truly needed someone. She decided to swallow her pride and go to him, ready to beg for his forgiveness and ask him to go with her to her father’s funeral. Never in a million years would she have guessed the surprise she found in his apartment.

Jody Stewart, a fellow second-year law student who’d made no secret of her lust for Garret, opened his door wearing cheap superstore lingerie. Neon green, to make matters worse.

Blair turned around and didn’t look back, not even when Garrett ran after her. Or when he pounded on her apartment door for an hour begging and pleading with her to let him explain. Not even when he tried to approach her in class every day for two solid weeks.

When he began to single-handedly plow his way through nearly every available woman in law school the next year, not to mention a couple of not-so-available ones, she knew she’d made the right decision.

Garrett Lowry was a player.

He may have taken a momentary side-stop with her, but he’d wasted no time before jumping back into the game. She was better off without him.

Still, the memories chafed.

Between Garrett’s betrayal and her father’s bad behavior, it had been easy for Blair to decide what type of law to practice. In fact, she should thank them both. Maybe she’d take daisies to her father’s grave when she came back from her honeymoon. He’d always hated daisies.

She was motioning to the bartender to bring her another drink, wishing the hotel staff would finally give her a damn room key, when she noticed him—a man was standing in the entrance of the bar, his gaze fixed on her. She did a double take, certain the Embassy Suites was now including hallucinogens in their drinks, because standing in the doorway was the player himself—Garrett Lowry.

She stopped the bartender as he grabbed her glass. “I’m going to need you to make that a double.”

Chapter Two

Garrett Lowry wondered if he should just divorce his family and be done with them. Unfortunately, while he’d seen quite a few unusual divorce cases in his four years of practicing law, he’d never seen anyone divorce his mother and aunt.

All this fuss over a damned one-third-carat diamond ring.

There was no dispute that his great-grandma Marie had bequeathed her engagement ring to her granddaughter. The trouble was that she hadn’t specified which granddaughter. Garrett’s Aunt Debra claimed that possession was nine-tenths of the law, and since she had possession of the ring, it was, ipso facto, hers…or rather her son’s. She had given it to her son for his fiancé six months ago. Garrett’s mother felt otherwise, and so the colossal argument had begun. Though he had no real desire to contest his aunt’s stance on the issue, Garrett could think of half a dozen legal cases that disputed her claim. But even if he’d felt any familial connection to the round rock on the gold band, surrounded by multiple smaller diamonds, he had no present use for it. He hadn’t had a steady girlfriend since law school, when—in a moment of profound idiocy—he’d broken up with the one woman he’d ever loved.

Ever since, he had hopping from one fling to the next like a water droplets on a hot skillet. It had been fun at first, but over the last year—with the big three-o on the horizon—Garrett had changed. He was ready to settle down with someone, but none of his relationships seemed to last longer than a couple of months.

The problem was simple, the solution less so: No one could live up to his ex-girlfriend, Blair Myers. They’d shared a connection the likes of which he’d never found with anyone else, and he was becoming increasingly convinced that he wouldn’t find it with anyone else.

Garrett had to admit that it rubbed like hell that his cousin was getting married. The guy had to be the most boring person on the planet, not to mention the most annoying. Garrett assured himself that his bride-to-be was surely some milquetoast woman who was eager to settle with Dr. Neil Fredrick in their suburban house with two-point-five kids. He’d come home from the hospital talking about which bacteria had given someone the squirts and his wife would serve up pot roast and boiled potatoes.

But that didn’t make him any more eager to take part in the War of the Ring, which had reached a boiling point now that the wedding was only a week away. Too bad Nana Ruby, the family matriarch, had taken it upon herself to assign him the role of peacemaker. Without bothering to consult him first, she’d arranged for him to be a last-minute groomsman in the wedding. He hadn’t even planned on going—he’d tossed the ivory invitation into the trash the moment it arrived, knowing he’d only received one was at Nana Ruby’s behest—and he had plenty of work to do in San Diego. But Nana didn’t want excuses; she wanted to know that he would show up in Kansas City with a smile on his face and keep the peace.

And no one said no to Nana.

“I’m leaving the success or failure of this wedding in your hands, Garrett Michael Lowry,” the older woman had barked into the phone.

Garrett had snickered in response. “That seems like a huge responsibility, Nana. Are you sure you want to leave that to me? In case you’ve forgotten, I’m more of an instigator then a peacemaker.”

“Ain’t your high falutin’ job all about making people come to some kind of agreement? You should be doin’ the same for your family.” Nana Ruby made no secret that she didn’t take much stock in higher education. Born and raised in the Ozarks, she’d gotten an ninth grade education and a doctorate in the university of hard knocks, a school she claimed was more beneficial than all those hoity-toity colleges. Garrett had always appreciated Nana’s unique charm, so he let her insults roll of his back. Neil, on the other hand, not so much.

“I don’t always help them come to an agreement, Nana. Sometimes the judge has to lay down the law.” He had paused for a moment before chuckling again. “Kind of like you, when it comes to Mom and Aunt Debra.”

“Don’t you try sweet talkin’ me, you devil child,” she’d grumbled.

“Sweet talk you? I’d be a fool to try. You’d rather have a cup of vinegar than a pot full of sugar.”

“You’re damn straight. Now get your ass to Kansas City, and you better have things under control by the time I drive up there on Wednesday.”

Garrett had hoped his mother would give him an out. He was her golden child, particularly after his sister’s recent out-of-wedlock pregnancy. Never mind that Kelsey was thirty-one years old and an executive sales manager for a national cellular phone service, making a six-figure income. In his mother’s eyes—or more importantly his Aunt Debra’s—Kelsey had tarnished the Lowry side of the family. Frankly, Garrett thought Kelsey had dodged a bullet by not marrying her on-again, off-again boyfriend, who seemed incapable of holding a steady job. But all either sister cared about was whether Kelsey’s loser ex had put a ring on it.

While Garrett found it irritating that his mother would let his backwoods aunt’s attitude sway her, he was opportunistic enough to take advantage of his mother’s current desire to keep him happy.

Of course, she’d denied him, insisting his inclusion in the wedding would be good for family unity.

How will it be good for family unity? It’s only going to stir up more shit.”

“Language, Garrett,” she’d chastised. “You know your aunt can’t abide cursing.”

“See? All the more reason for me to stay away and not upset the carefully constructed apple cart.”

“If your nana wants you to be there, who are we to question it? She knows what she’s doing,” was all his mother would say.

His mother was up to something, all right, and it sure as hell wouldn’t help him play peace keeper.

The only bright spot was that Neil was probably even more irritated about Garrett’s inclusion in the wedding party than he was.

Perhaps their mothers’ habitual animosity added fuel to the fire, but the cousins had never gotten along. While Garrett had always loved the two weeks a year he spent on his widowed grandmother’s acreage, spending it with Neil had added a partial dark cloud. Nana had taught both boys about the farm—from livestock to gardening—and while Garrett had soaked up the knowledge, reveling in it, Neil had whined so much, Nana had finally agreed to let him stay in the house with a book while she made the farm rounds with Garrett. But the annual visits had stopped in high school—which might have also coincided with Garrett playing a practical joke on his cousin involving horse dung—and while Garrett didn’t miss his mealy mouth cousin, he did miss his one-on-one time with Nana. So, while he technically could have told Nana Ruby no, he respected her so much, he would have done anything she asked of him. Not the he’d ever admit it. So he’d gone to work on Monday, told the senior partners he had a family emergency, and bought a late afternoon ticket to Kansas City.

Too bad Garrett spilled the slightly amusing, slightly sad tale of what the emergency actually was, because as soon as he did, his boss decided to use it to his advantage.

Earlier that afternoon, Garrett had been packing his messenger bag when his boss walked into his office looking like he’d won the lottery.

“Since your emergency isn’t so emergent, you can do some work while you’re there.”

Garrett patted his bag. “That’s what I’m planning to do, Matt.”

Matt shook his head, his grin so wide it was wonder his face didn’t split open. “Nope. Congratulations. You get to take the depositions on the Norfolk case.”

Garrett’s mouth dropped open. Could this trip get any worse? He shook his head in dismay. “No. Anything but that.”

His boss only laughed and dropped a huge file on Garrett’s desk. “Look at this way. Now you don’t have to take vacation time.”

“I’ll take the week off without pay to get out of this.”

“Too late. It’s already been decided by the big guy upstairs.” He pointed his finger toward the ceiling. “He figures you’ll do a better job than Lopez has done. The client’s lost confidence in him, and you have a reputation of being a barracuda, so…”

Garrett groaned and picked up the file, flipping through the pages. “Dammit. I hear the attorney representing the wife is a real bitch.”

Matt laughed. “You don’t know the half of it.” He looked over his shoulder at the door, then turned back to Garrett and lowered his voice. “Rumor has it she made Lopez cry.”

Garrett started to laugh before realizing he was the one who had to fill Lopez’s shoes.

“Lopez’s assistant will email you more details about the case, but the file should be enough to get you up to speed. Your first deposition is tomorrow at ten and should get the week rolling.”

First deposition?”

He boss laughed. “There are multiple people to depose in this case. The wife. The husband. The girlfriends. Plural.”

“I’m flying home on Sunday, Matt. And I supposedly have wedding activities on Thursday and Friday.”

Matt headed for the door and called over his shoulder. “Don’t come back until they’re all done.”

The wedding itself had begun to look like a cakewalk.

But now he was grounded in Phoenix for the night, and while he didn’t regret missing an early start to the wedding festivities, he didn’t want to delay the depositions. He had no desire to stay in Kansas City a minute longer than necessary, and he was pretty sure Nana wouldn’t see work as an excuse to get out of forced family fun.

But all thoughts went out the window when he ventured down to the bar at the hotel he’d booked. Because he recognized the woman sitting at the bar.
It was her, the woman who’d ruined all other women for him.

Blair Myers.

He blinked, certain his mind had given up and induced some type of psychosis, but the look of recognition in her own eyes proved she was real.

She was more beautiful than he remembered her. She still wore her blonde hair long, and it hung loose, though slightly mussed—totally unlike the put together woman with whom he’d spent nearly a year. She wore a black skirt and a light gray silk blouse that clung to her breasts. Her four-inch black heels rested on the metal footrest attached to the bar. Her clear blue eyes were focused on him.

It took him a full three seconds to come to his senses and another couple to figure out what to do. Did he ignore her? Did he say hello? He knew what he wanted to do, but what did she want?

In the end, his feet made the decision for him. He found himself moving toward her and he stopped only a few feet away, his pulse pounding in his head. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d been this nervous, and from the way she was clutching the tumbler the bartender had just handed her, so was she.

What did he say? A half a dozen things popped into his head. I miss you. You look good. Are you happy? There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t regret what I did. But the only thing that came out of his mouth was “Hi.”

She continued to stare at him, her gaze slightly unfocused.

“Can I sit?” he motioned to the stool next to her.

His question snapped her out of her daze. She gave him a half shrug, then turned to face the bar. “I can’t stop you.”

He took the fact that she hadn’t kneed him in the balls as a good sign. He slid onto the leather stool as she leaned her elbows on the counter, swaying slightly. No one else would ever notice, but he’d spent the better part of a year studying her instead of his law books. The Blair he knew didn’t get drunk. “What are you doing in Phoenix?”

“Passing through.” She took a sip of her drink.

He was going to need fortitude. He flagged down the bartender. “I’ll take a draft beer. You got Coors?”

The bartender nodded and went to get his drink. Blair chuckled, but it was a brittle sound. “You still drink that crap?”

“Crap?” He leaned his forearms on the bar. “It’s made from pure mountain spring water.”

She laughed, a genuine laugh, and something in his chest seized with a longing that caught him by surprise. He’d missed her, but the ache was even stronger now that she was beside him.

She turned to him, her gaze searching his face. “Are you married?”

He couldn’t believe he was sitting with her now. Maybe this was the universe giving him a gift he didn’t deserve, or maybe it was some uniquely horrible form of torture. Either way, he’d take it, but he had to tread lightly. He wanted to tell her what an idiot he’d been, but he needed to take this slow or he would scare her off. Every moment he had with her was a gift and he wasn’t about to screw that up. He forced a chuckle. “Hell, no.” He instantly knew it was a mistake.

“Still foot loose and fancy free, huh?” She waved her glass to accentuate her words.

The bartender handed him his beer and he grinned. “Since when did you start saying things like foot loose and fancy free?”

“Since I drank three whiskeys, two of them doubles.” She lifted her glass in salute and took a sip. “And you didn’t answer my question.”

He smirked, even if his heart wasn’t in it. “You bet I am. You?” He glanced down at her left hand and his heart sank.

She held up her hand, the better to blind him, flashing a gold ring with multiple diamonds.

He swallowed his disappointment and for a moment he actually considered getting up and walking away. He wasn’t sure he could sit here and pretend to be happy for her, that his mind hadn’t spun into overdrive with excitement and possibilities the moment he saw her, but he wasn’t sure he could live with himself if he acted that way. After all, he was the one who’d left and hurt her all those years ago. He owed her more than that. “Really, Blair? You don’t seem like the marrying kind.”

“People surprise you.” She grinned, but there was a bitter note in her voice.

He wanted to apologize, every fiber of his being demanded that he apologize, but he couldn’t. Despite what she thought, he knew her. The second he apologized she’d kick his ass—probably physically as well as verbally—and walk away forever. Blair couldn’t stomach any sign of weakness, especially in herself. If he let this conversation get even borderline sappy, it was done.

“So tell me about the poor fool you ended up with.” He forced a grin.

She lifted her eyebrows. “Why? So you can make fun of him?”

“Depends. You know me. I make fun of anyone who believes in the Hallmark version of love.”

She laughed. “We both did.”

Yet she’d loved him once. And even though neither of them were sappy, what Garrett and Blair shared had been intense yet fun.

“Remember Anti-Valentines’ Day?” she asked, laughing as she watched him.

His breath caught in his throat. Her face was less than two feet away, and he had a powerful urge to lean over and kiss her, but that would ruin everything. He pulled himself together.

“How could I forget Anti-Valentine’s Day?” They’d gone out of their way to do the exact opposite of a typical Valentine’s Day celebration, opting for Chuck E. Cheese and arcade games and crappy pizza rather than roses and wine. Then Garrett led her to the roof of his third floor apartment building, where he’d set up a telescope, and showed her the star he’d bought for her and named Blazing Supernova. When she argued that the speck of dust he’d bought her wasn’t a supernova, he told her she burned brighter than any star in the sky, though of course he teased her too, so it wouldn’t come across as sentimental. And he gave her a plastic ring he’d won at Chuck E. Cheese, telling her that someday he’d give her a real ring, but it would be on October 14, because it was the farthest a person could get from Valentine’s Day.

Two months later he had ruined everything.

“Remember when we made fun of those idiots who were fighting over the last batch of roses at the grocery store?” she laughed, then finished her drink and motioned to the bartender.

Blair was a social drinker. She only got shit-faced when she was upset. Now he was worried about her. “So does your guy buy you flowers?”

“Hell, no,” she scoffed, wobbling on her stool. “He’s too practical for that.”

“So what does he do?”

Her eyebrows lowered and she spent several seconds deep in thought. To his alarm, tears filled her eyes. “He programed my remote.”

He shook his head in mock appreciation. “An admirable gift.”

Her attention drifted over his shoulder and he turned to see a hotel employee walking toward them.

“I’m sorry, ma’am.” The skittish woman looked like she was about to bolt. “There aren’t any rooms available here at the hotel or any other hotel in a twenty mile radius. We checked.” She cringed. “Twice.”

Blair blinked and her eyes struggled to focus on the woman. “There are no rooms anywhere?” The sentence ended in a shout.

The employee jumped. “No, ma’am. I’m sorry.”

Ma’am?” Blair jumped off her stool and nearly fell over as she pointed her finger at the poor woman. “I’m not a ma’am! I could sue you for that!”

Garrett slid off his stool and wrapped his arm around her waist, pulling her back to his stomach. “Whoa, down there, tiger.”

She looked over her shoulder up at him, horror in her eyes. “She called me ma’am. How could she do that?

Garrett gave her a sympathetic look. “Clearly the poor woman needs glasses, but I hardly think it’s worth suing over.”

Blair twisted in his arms until her chest was pressed against his and she looked up at him. “There’s no room for me in the inn, Garrett.”

The seriousness on her face made him chuckle. “I’ll find you a stable somewhere, Blazer. Not to worry.” His old nickname for her slipped out before he could reel it back in, but thankfully she didn’t seem to notice.

“I hate horses,” she grumbled, resting her cheek on his chest.

“I know. I’ll make sure there aren’t any horses.”

The poor employee watched them in confusion, then lifted her gaze to Garrett. He winked. “She was joking about suing.”

“No I wasn’t,” Blair mumbled.

The employee’s eyes widened and Garrett mouthed run.

The woman took off and Garrett helped Blair back onto her stool. The bartender returned with Blair’s drink, but Garrett pushed it away before she could see it. “Can you bring a couple of waters and a couple of cheeseburgers, one with extra pickles?”

Blair laid her head down on the bar. “I like pickles.”

“I know.” He was glad she was too drunk to hear the sorrow in his voice.

Her head jerked up and her eyes widened. “I have to find somewhere to stay tonight.”

“Blair, I’ve already figured it out. Let’s eat and then we’ll talk about it.”

She laid her head down on her arm. “Okay.”

He watched her for several seconds, wondering what had made her so upset. He’d only seen her this drunk once before—the night she’d learned that her mother was moving from Kansas City to Des Moines. He had been her anchor then.

Now she was a mess and she had literally nowhere to go. He wasn’t about to leave her here. He could spend the rest of his life beating himself over something that was already done or he could try to make things right. And other than Blair, Garrett wasn’t a man to live in the past and dwell on mistakes. Now was the time to act.

He asked the bartender to have the food sent to his room, and then he helped Blair off her stool. “Come on, Blazer. They found you a room.”

She lifted her head slightly. “They did?

“Yeah, your attorney skills must be up to notch. All that talk about suing convinced them to find you one.” He reached for her. “Let me help you find it.”

She sat up and fumbled as she batted his hands away. “I don’t need any help. Especially not from you.”

He lifted his hands in surrender. “Of course you don’t. But they asked me to escort you. So there’s no further lawsuit-worthy issues.”

Her nose scrunched. She was clearly confused, but drunk enough to believe him. She slid off the stool and reached for her overnight bag, nearly tripping when she tugged it off the ground.

He grabbed the bag and slung her purse over his shoulder too.

She shook her head and nearly fell over. “I don’t think that bag goes with your outfit.”

He grabbed her elbow to steady her. The bag was made of off-white, uber-shiny patent leather with a shiny gold clasp. It had probably cost a fortune. When he compared it to his jeans and pale blue button-up shirt, covered in red stains from the Bloody Mary the passenger next to him had spilled during the turbulence, he flashed her a cocky grin. “Really? I thought jeans went with everything.”

She looked up into his face, her eyes searching his. “Why do you still have to be funny? And cute?” She slapped his chest, then left her hand there.

“Why aren’t you fat and bald?”

“Because, Blair Myers, as you and I both know, there’s really no such thing as justice in this world.” He kept his tone light and teasing, although perhaps this chance meeting proved there was justice in the world. He deserved every bit of pain it brought him. That seemed like justice to him.

She lifted her chin. “I’m not sleeping with you.”

“I never asked.”

She jerked out of his hold and put her hands on her hips. “I’m not good enough for the high and mighty Garrett Lowry?”

“You know me, Blazer. Never to go to the same pasture twice.” She’d accused him of that once, right before they left law school. It had stung deeper than he’d let on.

“I’m the best lay you ever had, Lowry.”

“It’s been too long and too many pastures ago to say, Blazer, but I’m sure you make the top five.” He knew she was beyond drunk when she had no reply. “Come on, the hotel staff asked me to show you to your room.”

He reached for her arm again, grateful when she didn’t shrug him off. He led her to the elevator, slightly worried the hotel staff would think he was taking advantage of her inebriation. But Blair’s drunken threats seemed to have staved off any such worries. Once they got on the elevator, his thankfulness turned to anger. Anyone could have take advantage of her. But he knew that wasn’t true. Blair Myers was nobody’s fool, drunk or not. The fact that she trusted him now told him that she still cared about him. At least on some level.

When they reached his room, he pulled out his key and opened the door, leading her inside.

“There’s already a suitcase in here,” she said as she wobbled across the room. She kicked off her heels mid-stride.

“It’s mine,” he said, watching her. “They brought it up here when they asked me to show you to your room.” It was utter nonsense, but she was drunk enough to buy it. If he let on that the room had originally been his, there was no way she would stay in it, drunk or not.

“Oh.” She sat down on the edge of the bed. “I’m still not sleeping with you.” She waved her left hand, the diamonds in her ring catching the light. “I’m not a cheater.”

He leaned his ass against the dresser. “I never cheated on you, Blair.”

She tilted her head to look at him. “No, I’ll give you that. I guess you’d left me before you slept with her.” He knew who she was talking about, of course. He hadn’t slept with her, but this wasn’t the time for an explanation. Blair glanced at his suitcase, then back at him. “You don’t live in Phoenix?”

“Nope. Looks like we both got stranded here.”

“So where are you going to sleep?”

He shrugged. He hadn’t gotten that far in this crazy scheme. “After I know you’re settled, I can go back to the airport.”

She fumbled with the buttons on her blouse, leaving it gaping open so that that he could she the swell of her breasts in her black bra and the creamy flesh of her abdomen.

God help him, but he was getting turned on by a drunk woman.

But this wasn’t just any drunk woman. This was Blair. Blair. How many nights had he thought of her naked body, the feel of her beneath him as he filled her… But it didn’t matter what his body—or his mind—remembered. He wasn’t about to try anything with her. He respected her more than that.

She settled back onto the bed, her legs curled to the side, and stared up at the ceiling. “You can’t go to the airport.” She licked her bottom lip and then sighed. “You can stay here.”

“It’s your room, Blazer. Besides, you already said you weren’t going to have sex with me.”

She awkwardly reached over and patted the other side of the mattress. “It’s a big bed and I’m a used pasture. You can sleep over there.”

He wanted to stay with her, but based on the way he couldn’t take his eyes off the curve of her hips in her skirt or her exposed cleavage, he wasn’t sure it was a good idea. “That is a very generous offer, but maybe I should head out now that you’re settled.” He could always grab some food at the airport. God knew, she could probably use both burgers after all the whiskey she’d downed.

She sat up and tears filled her eyes. “You’re leaving me again.”

Something in her voice ripped his heart to shreds. He’d sooner set himself on fire than make her feel that way again.

“No, Blair,” he said softly. “I’m not leaving you.” He moved to the bed and sat down next to her, wrapping his arm around her back and pulling her close. “Are you hungry?”

“Yeah.” But her eyes sunk closed.

They sat there for five minutes, Blair dozing against him as he cradled her to his chest. He closed his eyes and drank her in—the sight of her, the smell of her, the familiarity of her. The scab on his heart ripped open, leaving him bruised and raw. She only wore an engagement ring. That meant she probably wasn’t married yet. Maybe in the morning when she was sober, they could talk and he could tell her everything—that he was an utter idiot, but he was miserable without her, and he’d do anything to win her back. Literally anything.

Maybe there was hope for them.

Room service knocked on the door, and he gently settled her back onto the bed before he signed for the food. He considered waking her to eat, but she looked so peaceful he couldn’t disturb her. He ate his burger while he checked his email and studied for his deposition in the morning, all the while sneaking glances at her. Watching her was surreal. He’d never expected to see her again, let alone have her on his bed. Of course, he’d prefer to have her doing other things in his bed, but the peace and happiness he felt in her mere presence was a telling sign of how he felt.

Soon her draw was too strong. He changed into a T-shirt and a pair of athletic shorts and carefully lay down on the bed next to her, both of them on top of the comforter. She stirred and he studied her face, taking in every detail and committing it to memory in case she refused to listen to him, which, he realized, was the most likely scenario. Blair was firmly against second chances. The way she’d turned her back on her father was proof enough of that.

She sighed and rolled over again, pressing her back to his stomach. He held his breath, waiting for her to wake up and accuse him of trying to take advantage of her. But she soon stilled, pulling his arm tighter against her stomach. He breathed in her scent, drowning in memories. She still used the same vanilla-scented shampoo.

“I miss you, Garrett,” she mumbled and he froze. If she hadn’t said his name, he would have thought she was talking about her fiancé/husband. But she had said his name.

So he wasn’t the only one who still had feelings.

He could make this work. He’d figure out a way. Screw Neil’s damn wedding. Screw the Norfolk depositions. He’d stay here with her as long as it took to convince her to give him a second chance.

But when he woke the next morning, the room still dark, and he was devastated to find her side of the bed empty.

Blair was gone.

*****

Read the rest on June 2!

4 Comments

  1. Pamela Hargraves says:

    Wonderful, can’t wait for June 2nd.

  2. Ellen Eaves Anderson says:

    I forgot it was just the first two chapters and got so tied up in it, I couldn’t believe it when my page wouldn’t move anymore! What an awesome start to a book that I can’t wait to get my hands on!!!

  3. Tami says:

    Love it!! Totally sucked it, cannot wait until June 2nd

  4. Beverly DuBerry says:

    Loved the way the book started. Can’t wait to see what happens when Garrett finds out Blair is engaged to Neil.

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