Warner Family & Friends — Secrets & Lies, Book 5
A vow of revenge…the promise of love
Exonerated for a crime he didn’t commit, Dawson Reynolds has worked hard to make a new life. Now a fabulously successful real-estate mogul, he will never forgive the powerful Warner clan for turning their backs on him when he needed them most…and he’s determined to confront the Warners and demand what’s his.
But when he returns to Heather Hill, his plans immediately spin out of control, starting with his fierce and undeniable attraction to a Warner niece, gorgeous Yale Law graduate Arianna Smith. Still reeling from their passionate interlude, he is further stunned by a family crisis that forces him to re-evaluate everything he is and everything he thought he wanted.…
Arianna falls for the charismatic real-estate tycoon the moment she meets him, but she has fears about starting a relationship with a man as tormented as Dawson, even after their erotic idyll in the Hamptons. Can she can help him heal the bitter pain of the past with the promise of a passionate future together?
Read an Excerpt
Dawson meets the mystery woman…
He’d’ve liked to hang out here and enjoy the spectacular view. He’d roamed to the far end of one of the many terraces, the one nearest the greenhouse, and it would’ve been nice to linger for a minute, listening to the faint notes of jazz coming from the house. The summer night was balmy, the moon high and bright, and his plans were coming together so well he wanted to enjoy life.
More than that, he wanted to meet the woman he’d glimpsed across the dance floor tonight, the beautiful distraction in the electric blue dress, the one who’d smiled at him and made need contract in his gut. The one who—
No. He wouldn’t go there. The last thing he needed was a distraction.
Knocking back the last of his red wine, he set the goblet on the stone ledge, reached inside his jacket for his cell phone, and thumbed in the number. The valet could bring the car around to meet him in front—
The unexpected click of high heels on the stones behind him was his only warning. That, and the negligible but mind-numbing swish of silk against gleaming skin. And then she was there, the distraction, the woman who’d snagged his unwilling attention and hadn’t yet let it go.
He looked over his shoulder at her and froze, the dialed cell phone hovering near his ear and all his best-laid plans going up in smoke.
“Were you ever going to say hi to me?” she asked.
He stared, surprised on so many levels it seemed unlikely he’d ever get his jaw up off the ground. “Hello?” the valet said in his ear, but Dawson hit END and hung up on him, all his focus irrevocably centered on this female.
There was no coyness about her, no false shyness or calculated hesitation, all of which bored him worse than watching white paint dry. She radiated an open curiosity, as though she honestly needed to solve the mystery of why he hadn’t approached her when they’d caught each other’s eye earlier. As though understanding him mattered to her, a lot.
She was a tiny little thing, young, but everything about her was pure, one-hundred-percent, grade-A woman with a capital W. Her generous curves—yes, there was a God–were poured into that blue dress, which was slinky like a nightgown and yet not particularly revealing. Her bare arms were toned, her pale brown skin an invitation his twitchy fingers could barely resist. She had a tumble of black curls around her shoulders and a dimple in her chin.
And her eyes.
Jesus. She had the dewy, wide-eyed innocence of a Disney princess, so much so that he felt like the hulking and clumsy Big Bad Wolf next to her.
Only no Disney princess had ever exuded sex like this.
Her mouth curled with open amusement, as though she knew exactly how she made his blood simmer with lust. “Should I repeat the question?”
Finally, several beats too late, his wits reappeared and scrambled to catch
up. “No. I wasn’t going to say hi to you.”
She frowned and nodded. “That’s what I thought. So it’s a good thing I took matters into my own hands, isn’t it?”
“Remains to be seen.”
She laughed and it was, like everything else about her, unassuming, sexy, and startling. Her voice was high and sweet, but her laugh was deep and throaty, as earthy as sex with the windows open on a rainy night.
That need strengthened, twisting in his gut.
“Here.” She passed him one of the delicate glass bowls she’d been holding, and kept one for herself. “Have some dessert with me.”
Saying no wasn’t an option; you didn’t say no when the president tapped you for his cabinet, or when Don Corleone asked for a favor, or when this little walking wet dream wanted to spend time with you. He took it. When the tips of their fingers brushed, he felt a flare of heat spread up his arm and out through the pores of his skin, enough to make him sweat.
The sudden hitch of her breath told him she’d felt it too, that unholy spark, but she got over it and went back to taking charge. “Sit with me.”
She tried to ease her hip onto the ledge and get comfortable. But she was short, and the wall was high, and he hated to think of her scratching her fine skin or snagging her dress.
That, and he really, really, wanted to touch her again.
“Wait.” Without thought, he put his bowl down, planted his hands on the curve of her hips, and lifted her to a seated position.
Bad move, Dawson.
She felt so good, so unspeakably right, that he almost choked on the sensation. The silk slithered over her hot skin, making him desperate to touch the flesh underneath, and he didn’t—physically could not—let her go.
As if that wasn’t a challenging enough test of his self-control, something worse happened. From the corner of his eye he saw the bottom of her dress slide away, revealing way more legs than a woman this short should have, and thighs that he would have killed to sink his teeth into.
All the while, she stared straight into his face with those bright eyes, studying him with unabashed curiosity, and he tried not to feel her breathless stillness between his hands.