Trouble

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Trouble

It's Complicated, Book 1

Career. Family. Romance. It’s Complicated.

Brilliant criminal defense attorney Mike Baldwin follows the highest ethical standards. In his career and his personal life.

Until a fascinating—and off-limits—woman named Dara Williams shows up and ignites a scorching passion that threatens Mike’s career and everything in its path.

Including Mike’s tenuous relationship with his brother. Who also wants Dara.

If you enjoy emotional and sexually charged love stories that end happily ever after, pick up this tale of forbidden love now!

She that has a choice has trouble. — American proverb

What the Critics say

“Ann Christopher gets it right every time.”
—Lori Foster, New York Times Bestselling Author

“Ann Christopher’s gift with words will leave you captivated and breathless.”
—Brenda Jackson, New York Times & USA TODAY Bestselling Author

“[D]elivers a scorching, chain reaction of relationship chemistry that leaves readers breathless!”
—L.A. Banks, New York Times Bestselling Author

Read an Excerpt

Though he’d been blindsided by news of this so-called book project, Andrew had already started to recover and to scheme. First on his agenda was getting rid of this woman, which was a shame.

The fascinating and beautiful Viveca Jackson, still flushed with embarrassment, didn’t look any too happy to be alone with him, nor did she look as if she wanted to hop the next plane back to New York, but he didn’t care.

Life as he knew it was at stake, and he would kill or die before he let this woman discover the truth. The secret he had to protect at all costs—he wasn’t the Warner heir. Hell, he wasn’t even a Warner.

His grandmother didn’t know. If she did, she’d most likely disown him in favor of his cousin Eric, her favorite.

Only Bishop knew his secret.

Everything Andrew had, and was, hung in the balance.

WarnerBrands International, the company he’d nurtured and developed. His job as CEO. His inheritance of ninety million, give or take. His power, prestige and birthright. All could be gone in the blink of Viveca Jackson’s pretty brown eye.

He’d never let that happen.

Though the job and the lifestyle had begun to suck him dry, he would never let them go. He was Andrew Warner, corporate titan, WarnerBrand International’s savior, and that was all he was. Being Andrew Warner was his only reason for taking up space on the planet.

Fighting was in his blood, tainted though it was. So was winning. Diplomacy could work, though, so he’d give peace a chance…for about five minutes. Then he’d take off the kid gloves if he had to. One way or the other, though, he was throwing Viveca’s shapely little butt back on a plane before the sun set tonight.

And that was unfortunate because, had circumstances been different, he would have liked to have gotten to know her much better.

To say he’d been surprised to look up and see her, poorly hidden behind the curtains, watching Brenda grope him, would be the understatement of the year. More surprising had been the naked heat he’d felt radiating from her in waves, as if she wished she’d been the one doing the groping.

They’d stared at each other for the longest, most sexually charged moment of his life. He’d caught a shadowy, unsatisfying glimpse of her wide eyes and pretty face.

He’d seen enough of her ripe, curvy figure to see that it was shorter and fuller than Brenda’s, but also God-given and not store-bought.

For that one moment out of time, he’d fantasized that the hand and bare breasts pressed so tightly against him had belonged to her, whoever she was.

The want had only intensified when he saw Viveca up close and got a good look at her numerous and remarkable assets. She had smooth caramel skin he desperately wanted to taste. A tumble of black corkscrew curls he wanted to touch. Dark cat eyes he wanted to make glaze over and close with ecstasy. Perfectly bowed lips he wanted to kiss and bite. A fantastic bounty hidden under that demure suit he wanted to claim.

But it wasn’t meant to be. He had to get rid of her. Now.

Her fine brows flattened into a frown, and she abandoned her fake, sugary smile. “I don’t think we have anything to talk about—”

“Then you can just listen.”

“—and if you have something to say it can wait until later, can’t it? It’s not polite to—”

“Polite?” Intrigued, he gave in to the impulse to ruffle her feathers. “You didn’t seem all that worried about manners a few minutes ago when you were spying on my little, ah, private moment with Brenda.”

Bingo. Her color rose until she looked as if she burned with a hundred-and-five-degree fever. She probably wanted to slink off and hide behind the sofa, but he knew, even before she raised her chin in defiance, that she was too proud to ever let him best her.

“I’m sorry about that.” Her voice was cool with righteous disdain.

“If I’d known I was stumbling onto a peep show, I wouldn’t have glanced out at the pool.”

“You barely knew there was a pool out there.” He took a large step forward, breaching the invisible boundaries that surrounded her like a barbed-wire fence, and enjoyed the flare of panic behind her bright eyes even as she stood her ground. “Your attention was focused on other things, wasn’t it?”

She winced but recovered quickly. “Not really.” Taking all the time in the world, a study in nonchalance, she turned, picked up one of the framed family portraits from the side table and examined it. “I was just wondering if Brenda’s, ah, assets work as flotation devices in the pool.”

Audacity was, unfortunately, a quality he admired, as was courage. She seemed to have both in spades, and that attracted and irritated him.

“Really?” Trying not to smile, he needled her because she was so easy to provoke and so…unexpected. “I could’ve sworn you were staring at me, not Brenda.”

Though she kept her head lowered over the picture, she went perfectly still and he knew his sharp little arrow had hit the bull’s-eye again. She replaced the photo, and her gaze, furious and glittering now, flickered back up to his.

“You’re very obnoxious, aren’t you?”

“I say what I want.” If she expected him to apologize, she could forget it. “I get what I want. Period. Remember that.”

“Well, what do you want to talk about that’s so important?” Abandoning all pretext of playing nice, she perched on the edge of the sofa, her back rigid, and glared.

“Well, Viveca.” He sat on the chair nearest her, stretched out his legs and studied his nails. “As I mentioned earlier, I think this whole book project is a stupid idea and I want you to drop it.”

“No.”

“Why would you want to do it, anyway?” He needed to learn anything he could about her. “Working in New York at the Times has to be much more exciting.”

“I’ve taken a leave of absence. I like writing nonfiction, and I’d like to move my career in that direction. This book is a huge coup for me. Any other questions?”

“What about the rest of your life?” A strange, unwelcome knot tightened in his gut as a new thought occurred to him. “Don’t you have a husband or boyfriend—”

“My personal life is none of your business.”

Annoyance surged. His position—as heir to a fortune and CEO of a Fortune 1000 company—entitled him to a certain amount of respect, and he usually got it. One quirked brow from him was generally enough to make men and women alike snivel like children. Why didn’t she? Who was she that she thought she could talk to him this way in his grandmother’s house?

“I don’t see any rings. And if you were with me I wouldn’t let you—”

“Let me? I’m a grown woman, in case you hadn’t noticed.”

Oh, he’d noticed. Her beautiful face and generous bosom, heaving now with anger, were constant reminders.

So was her faint, exotic scent, which reminded him of fruit, like Brenda’s, but was otherwise a world apart. Brenda smelled like apples and cucumbers, but Viveca smelled like mangoes, coconuts and something more sensuous.

Resisting the strong urge to follow his nose into her hair or the smooth column of her neck was becoming harder by the second.

The frustration and deprivation pissed him off.

“Go home to New York.” His jaw flexed and his teeth ground down around the words he didn’t really want to say.

“Work on something else.”

“No.” She got up and walked to the door.

He stood, too, and scanned through his limited options.

Talking to his grandmother again would do no good, and if he knew anything at all about the Silver Fox, which he did, it would only make her dig in her heels even more.

Ditto with trying to reason with Viveca. But…maybe throwing a little money at the problem would make it go away. Money spoke volumes, and he had plenty to spend.

“A hundred thousand.”

Pausing, one heeled foot over the threshold into the hall, and one foot still in the library, she looked back at him. “Excuse me?”

“You can’t be making that much as a reporter. I’ll pay you a hundred K to drop the project. You can take the next plane out and be home by dinner.”

It took her a while to get her jaw off the floor and splutter her outraged answer, but it finally came. “Maybe you’re not up on current events, but I just told you I’m going to do the book.”

“Two hundred, then.”

Her searching gaze, narrowed and sharp, intensified.

“Let me get this straight. You’re willing to write me a check for two hundred thousand dollars just to get me to go away? Just like that?”

“That’s right.”

“Why not three?”

Irritation tied all his muscles into tight little pulsating knots, but blowing up at her was not an option, no matter how badly he wanted to. If he lost his temper, she’d write the damn book just to spite him.

“Think of everything you could do with this money, Viveca.” He kept his voice reasonable and soothing.

“Travel. Save. Buy a vacation house in the Hamptons.”

She tilted her head, studying him, and he started to believe she was actually considering his proposal. But then one side of her mouth hitched up into a disquieting, calculating smile. His hopes sank.

“No one’s ever tried to bribe me before. It makes me wonder what you’re hiding.”

Keeping his face blank while he lied, not blinking or looking away from that piercing, brown-eyed gaze, was one of the hardest things he’d ever done. “I’m not hiding anything. I just think my grandmother isn’t quite up to a project like this at her age.”

“Is that right?”

“She had that heart attack last year, and I think she’s biting off more than she can chew. And I don’t trust you not to sensationalize our story to try to sell a few extra books.”

The half smile slipped from her face and was replaced by a glare so chilling he was amazed he didn’t see little puffs of steam from her breath when she spoke again.

“There’s something you should know about me, Andrew.” She squared her shoulders and enunciated each syllable with military precision.

“I don’t take bribes. Here’s something else you should know. I don’t back down from challenges. Oh, and here’s one more thing. You’re really pissing me off.”

He watched her with anger, fascination and unwilling admiration. She was quite a woman, and he was sorry they were on opposite sides of this issue.

Long after he’d put her on a plane back to New York, he’d wonder what those lips tasted like, how soft her thighs were and what she’d say next.

“I like you, Viveca.” He meant it, and it wasn’t just the lust talking, either, which disturbed him. He crept closer, irresistibly drawn to those wide, dark eyes. “You’re heading down the wrong path with this book, and I’m going to stop you, one way or the other, but it’s not personal.”

“I don’t care whether you like me or not.”

He laughed, both because he couldn’t help it and because he couldn’t remember when he’d had this much fun sparring with someone.

Viveca’s breath hitched and her gaze lingered on his face—his mouth—giving him the small satisfaction of knowing that underneath the cool facade, she wasn’t immune to him.

More than that, she wanted him. He’d seen the signs often enough in his life to know what they meant—her breathlessness, bright eyes and husky voice all screamed that she wanted him, even if she didn’t like him.

Realizing this, and considering how explosive a night in bed with Viveca Jackson would be, his secret suddenly seemed less important.

He inched closer. He noticed the way her breasts heaved as she tried to get her erratic breathing under control, and need tightened his gut.

“Any other time, Viveca, I’d really enjoy getting you to like me, too.”

“What’s to like?”

Laughing again, he said, “Most women can find something.”

“Yes, well, I’m not most women, and I’m certainly not Brenda—”

“I can see that.”

“—and your little smile doesn’t work with me.”

“You noticed my smile?”

He knew this was another direct hit because her cheeks flamed. His mind, which was having a very difficult time staying on task this morning, veered off again.

So much passion in this one woman. Right now she’d like to use it to smash his grinning face, sure, but what other uses could he find for it?

“I’m leaving.” She brushed by him on her way to the door.

That inadvertent but electrifying contact with Andrew’s body sealed her fate. Rational thought went out the window, replaced by hot lust and blind need. If there was some option available to him other than touching her, he couldn’t think what it was.

“No, you’re not.”

Reaching out, he caught her arm and swung her lightly around. The momentum brought her up against his chest, and he greedily latched on, holding tight around her waist and ignoring her startled squeak.

Reeling, intoxicated with the feel of her, he tried to think.

“Viveca…I really need to…”

The words trailed off because it was way too hard to speak when she was in his arms. Lowering his head until his lips hovered half an inch from hers, he spent a moment drowning in her wide, surprised eyes. Her hot, sweet breath feathered his mouth as she panted. Realizing he’d made her that excited, he hardened to full readiness and waited.

He wouldn’t take; she had to give.

After a moment’s hesitation, she closed her eyes and surrendered.

When she mewled helplessly and tipped her chin up that last fraction of an inch to meet him, he shuddered with triumph and the kind of raw excitement that could knock a grown man to his knees.

Before she could change her mind, he kissed her.