Driven to Temptation
Driven to Love #1
By: Melia Alexander
Released June 13, 2016
She’s a gorgeous distraction he can’t afford…or ignore.
Aidan Ross might be an engineering genius, but people skills? Not this soldier’s forte. Thankfully, a trusted friend is accompanying him to a make-or-break tradeshow…but then a bubbly redhead hops into his truck, claiming to be his new road trip buddy. She’s a gorgeous distraction he can’t afford. Or ignore.
Delaney Harper comes from a family of engineers—maleengineers. With several impressive projects under her belt, she’s on a mission to prove she can hang with the big boys, too. But cracking the sexy, closed-off CEO is tougher than she expects…and hotter than she could have imagined.
With the tempting woman disrupting his carefully planned schedule, Aidan can’t focus on the road, much less their upcoming presentation. The future of his company is riding on this trip, and if they’re to land a huge account, he has to keep his head—and his heart—in the game…
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He was the Mad Hatter trapped in a bad production of Alice in Wonderland. No doubt about it.
Aidan Ross drummed his fingers on the steering wheel and stared straight ahead.
…One thousand eight… One thousand nine… One thousand ten…
He blew out a frustrated breath while the driver of the luxury vehicle ahead of him finally completed an excruciatingly slow turn onto a side street. Once they were out of the way, Aidan stepped on the gas pedal and maneuvered his truck through Milestone’s Tuesday morning traffic.
The residents of the central Oregon city didn’t compare with Portland’s crazy-ass drivers, but man, he wished they at least drove like they had somewhere important to go.
Didn’t help that he did.
After way more time than it should’ve taken, he pulled into a space in front of the Ross and Associates office.
Normally, Harold White, his second-in-command at the fledgling geospatial engineering firm, would have their materials piled on the sidewalk, ready to be loaded. Only this morning, there were no easels, charts, or laptop. No Harold, either.
Which was weird. The guy was always on time. Always.
Aidan shoved the truck into park. Better find out what was going on.
He cut the engine, stepped out of the 4×4, and slammed the door shut. Sucking in a deep breath, he crossed the front of his Chevy Silverado. Harold was always after him to come to the office, but Aidan knew that was the last place he should be.
He forced his feet across the sidewalk, then yanked open the glass door. Late-morning sunlight streamed through an open window at the far end of the small room, landing on the wooden reception desk and the man pacing in front of it.
And Brenda, the office manager-cum-receptionist-cum-accountant, was nowhere around.
Sweat trickled down his back, despite the cooler late-summer temperatures. He wasn’t good with clients, or with people in general. Harold, on the other hand, was a master.
Which was why Aidan preferred to work from home.
The man turned, nodded at him, then did a double take. “Aidan?” He smiled. “I haven’t seen you since we signed a couple of years ago. How are you?”
Well, shit. Now what? Harold was also after him to shake his standoffish manner with their clients, not that Aidan could really control how he was. But it wasn’t like he could walk out now.
His mind whirred as he forced a smile and stepped toward the older man’s outstretched hand. “How are you, sir?”
What the hell was the man’s name? Oh. Right. Brewster. Joe Brewster. He scanned his memory for some tidbit to do the small-talk stuff that Harold swore put people at ease. Something else Aidan needed to work on.
He owned Ross and Associates, for God’s sake. He had a distinguished military record. All good reasons he should be able to do the small-talk bit.
He shook the man’s hand, making sure to exert just the right amount of pressure. If he remembered correctly, Joe’s quarter-million-dollar renovation of a recently purchased Milestone mansion had hit the paper not that long ago. “How’s the remodel going?”
The man’s face darkened. “The remodel’s fine, but I hope Evelyn comes to her senses. ’Course, it’s too late for any sort of reconciliation, but I want to be able to tell her that myself.”
What the hell? Had Aidan missed something?
Joe clearly recognized the confused look on his face. “Evelyn. My wife. Ran off with a carpenter.”
Shit. Shit. Shit.
Why hadn’t Aidan heard this? And how the hell was he supposed to recover from opening this can of worms? He shifted his weight from one foot to the other. Where was Brenda? He glanced at the partition that separated the reception area from the rest of the space and willed her to appear.
The older man didn’t seem to notice his discomfort. Or chose to ignore it. “She’s in for one huge surprise when the divorce is final,” he said, shaking his head in satisfaction. “Serves her right. No one embarrasses Joe Brewster.”
Because, of course, Joe Brewster’s many affairs didn’t count as embarrassing to Evelyn at all, did they?
Aidan refrained from pointing that out and cleared his throat instead. “Ummm… How about some coffee?”
But the man was on a roll. “If that woman had any brains, she’d realize I’ve raised her up from the depths of despair.”
First they were late getting out of Milestone, and now he’d managed to set off an important client. Where the hell were his employees?
“But what does she do?” Joe’s face scrunched into an ugly scowl. “Screws a goddamned carpenter, for God’s sake.”
At the sound of rapid-fire footsteps from behind the partition, Aidan blew out a deep breath. About time.
A redheaded woman walked around the corner, holding a couple of boxes and glancing at her watch. She looked up, her emerald-green eyes latching onto his. “Finally,” she said. “If you’re on time, you’re late. Didn’t you know that?”
He frowned at the verbal jab, bit back the retort on his tongue, and raised an eyebrow instead. He didn’t like being late. Ever.
This was so obviously not the mild-mannered Brenda.
Whoever the woman was, she clearly worked for him. “Please bring our guest some coffee,” he instructed Red.
There were some advantages to owning his company, weren’t there?
Delaney Harper stopped, trying her damnedest to keep her face neutral while the hairs on the back of her neck bristled.
Four years of engineering school, countless hours of engineering internships with some of the largest construction firms in the Pacific Northwest, two years with Ross and Associates. And after all that she was asked by the man himself to deliver coffee like some servant?
She swallowed down the retort on the tip of her tongue. And here she’d bothered to dress in a suit instead of the jeans and T-shirt she preferred. Even now she fought the need to fidget, to straighten the seam that somehow kept falling low on her shoulder and the skirt that seemed to slide up and down her hips when she walked. Maybe Mr. Please-Bring-Our-Guest-Coffee might have a safety pin she could use.
Remember the goal.
Run a major project for Ross and Associates. Convince her parents she had what it took to make it in a man’s world. All so she could run her own engineering firm and employ female engineers who might otherwise not be given a chance to prove themselves in the construction world. If any of it was going to happen, it was up to her.
Failure wasn’t an option. Which meant she had to show some of the grace her older brothers swore she lacked.
She sucked in a deep breath and made her feet move toward the stack of boxes and her roller bag by the front door. The last thing she needed to do was engage her mouth before her brain had a chance to process her words. A habit she had yet to break, if her brothers were to be believed.
Besides, if what she’d overheard was correct, Aidan Ross clearly needed her help to get him out of a sticky mess with one of the company’s largest clients. No wonder the man didn’t hang around the office.
She set the boxes down, readjusted her skirt as surreptitiously as possible, and, smile plastered on her face, turned. “Of course.” She nodded. “How would you like your coffee, Mr. Brewster?”
For his part, Joe seemed to have recovered from his tirade. “Oh, no need for that, young lady.” He smiled broadly. “I’m just waiting on some files for the Century Plains project.” He raised his chin in Aidan’s direction. “I know you’ll choose your best team for this project, right?”
Century Plains? The large computer chip manufacturing facility had been on hold for a couple of years through the recession. Rumor had it they’d finally be breaking ground.
Delaney straightened, tugged on her navy skirt, and not because she wished she were in jeans instead. One always dressed for success when meeting her boss for the first time. At least, that’s what her mother advised. Not that she took her advice very often.
This, however, was an opportunity dropped on her. Finally.
Brenda bustled into the room with the efficiency of a multitasking working mother. Or a damned good office manager. She pushed her telephone headpiece off her head with one hand. “Here are the files, Joe. Let’s head to the copier where you can look these over. Hello, Aidan,” she called over one shoulder as she preceded their client toward the back. “Good to see you.”
Brenda didn’t seem all that surprised to see the man. Although as far as Delaney could tell, he never showed up here. At least, not during normal working hours. There were plenty of nights she didn’t leave until pretty late, though, and she’d never seen him come in then, either.
Aidan stood with a slightly bewildered look on his face, almost like he was trying to take it all in. He shoved his hands into the front pocket of his fitted jeans. Not that she was really looking all that closely at them.
Delaney cleared her throat. “I’m just about ready,” she said, surveying the assorted pile. “Just a couple more boxes, and the easels and charts, then we’re good to go.”
And given the late nights she’d spent making sure her projects were successful, she’d be on the road to a future she knew she’d more than earned.
Melia Alexander is the author of sassy, sexy, fun contemporary romances, but is also fortunate to spend her week days at The Male Observation Lab (a.k.a. her job at a construction company) where she gets to observe guys in their natural habitat. Though they often behave like typical alpha males, in many instances she’s seen through their personas to the heart of who they really are – the heroes of their own stories.
A native of Guam, Melia traded in warm, tropical breezes for the rainy Pacific Northwest. She’s an avid reader who also loves romantic comedies – preferably with a glass of CabSauv and a box of chocolates nearby. In her free time, she’s busy conquering her CrossFit fears: ring dips, muscle snatches, and the dreaded 800 meter run. Her family appreciates her attempts at cooking and cleaning, although she spends it mostly daydreaming about her characters, which sometimes results in a burnt meal and a half-cleaned house.
Tempting Mr. Wrong
Wrong Man Series #2
By: Kerri Carpenter
Released June 13, 2016
A little temptation never hurt anyone…
Lance Townsend craves freedom after years living a structured existence in the Army. But just as he’s about to start on his bucket list, Lance receives an unexpected request: check in on his goddaughter. The problem? The adorable little girl’s aunt is the one woman he’s never been able to forget.
Carly Quigley can’t believe her brother’s best friend, the man who jilted her years ago, is at her door. He claims her brother asked him to check in on her niece and their fixer-upper, but all either of them can focus on is their undeniable attraction. Carly knows Lance is counting down the hours to leave, which makes him the wrong man for her. Unfortunately, the wrong man has become oh-so-tempting.
Each book in the Wrong Man series is a standalone, full-length story that can be enjoyed out of order.
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If you’re reading this letter, it means I didn’t make it. Okay, joking here. Although, maybe I shouldn’t be joking about something like this. But, jeez, if a guy can’t kid around about his possible (but highly unlikely) demise, I don’t know who can.
(Yes, Gretchen is rolling her eyes as she reads over my shoulder. I swear, sweetie, I AM taking this seriously.)
Let me get to the point. My gorgeous, although totally anal and overly organized, wife has decided that since we just bought our new house and Mya is the ripe old age of two, we are in dire need of a will. Trust me, I think it’s ridiculous, too. What are the chances?
Anyway, if something were to happen to both me and Gretch, Carly will become Mya’s guardian. Gretch has all kinds of official documents with crazy legal mumbo jumbo at our lawyer’s office. Guess that’s what I get for marrying a paralegal. I’d tell you what it says, but hell if I know. So good luck to my adorable little sister reading through all of that.
That brings me to the reason for this letter. Since Gretch took care of all the technical crap, I thought I’d do this in my own way. Lance, buddy, stop rolling your eyes and snorting.
Let me get serious for a second. Do I think anything is going to happen to me and Gretch? Not really. Hell, I got out of how many army tours without anything too bad going down? But, just in case, and because my wife is making me, I have some requests.
The house we bought, well, it’s my dream house. I know it needs some work. (Gretch just yelled, “That’s an understatement!”) But I always wanted a fixer-upper. Lance, even though you are not as skilled as me, make sure everything is in tip-top shape.
More importantly, I’m asking you to check in on Mya. Make sure she’s healthy and happy. I know Carly will teach her all the girly stuff she needs to know. But perhaps you can do your best friend a solid, and convince her she shouldn’t start dating until she’s thirty. After all, you are her godfather, even if you couldn’t change a diaper for shit last time you visited.
Lance, I’d like Mya to know how to properly hit a baseball. I’m praying she didn’t inherit her mother’s lack of athleticism. None of that T-ball crap. I want her to go straight to the big leagues. First woman in the majors. Make it happen. Also, keep those presents coming. Even at two, I can tell Mya loves the stuff you send her.
So that’s it. Basically, I’m asking you and Carly to work together to make sure my little princess is well taken care of. Oh yeah, make sure Carly stops dating these idiots. I don’t know where she finds these dogs. She needs a nice guy. No more loser assholes. Only the best for her. So watch over her, too. Think you can handle that?
Two years later…
The countdown had begun.
Lance picked up his mail from the unit mailroom, offered a few quick greetings, and then made his way back to his bunk. Before he took a load off on his own neatly made bed, he stopped to say hi to one of his twenty bunkmates.
“Townsend,” Fred Bing replied with a nod. He was fiddling with something on his phone.
“What’s the number?” Lance asked.
Fred didn’t even have to look at the calendar hanging next to his bunk with the days marked off in deep red marker. “Forty-two,” he replied quickly with a big grin.
“Someone’s getting closer and closer to going home.”
Lance continued to his bed. If Fred had a little over a month left in this place, that meant Lance had three more months. Initially, he’d made fun of the kid’s calendar, but as time went by, he couldn’t help but feed off his excitement.
Fred would only be done with this tour. He had more to come after that. In Lance’s case, a whole new world was about to open up. In three short months, he would be done with his required eight years of post-college commitment to the army. His time as a soldier would come to an end.
For the first time in his entire life, he would be free of rules and requirements. No one would tell him what to do. He’d grown up with the mother of all strict mothers. Every second of Lance’s childhood had been mapped out and timed to perfection. Lessons and playdates and study time. College hadn’t been much better. He’d taken an ROTC scholarship that required him to be on time, pay attention, and, of course, obey orders.
He leaned back on his bed, still clutching his mail.
Then came his eight years of service. Not that he’d disliked the army. He’d actually really enjoyed the military. But after thirty years of following other people’s schedules and being told what to do, Lance was massively looking forward to being in charge of his life. No rules. No time lines. No responsibilities.
“Still planning on a road trip when you get out?” Fred asked.
Lance shuffled through the envelopes. “You know it.” He had a bucket list that he’d been compiling for the last decade. “Vegas is a must.”
“No shit,” Fred said. “If I were you, I’d hit up Austin, Nashville, and New Orleans.”
“Of course you would.” Lance shook his head. Fred was a southern kid through and through.
When he glanced at the bottom envelope in his pile of mail, Lance paused. His hand shook slightly when he took in the last name in the return address. Nine months had passed, and even seeing the name ‘Quigley’ still caused a huge lump to form in his throat. He threw the rest of the mail on his bed and sat up, eyeing the letter and wondering what in the hell it could contain.
“Who’s it from?” Fred nodded toward the lone envelope that Lance was now clutching so hard he was starting to bend the paper.
Fred wiggled his eyebrows. “You been holding out on us, Townsend? Got a girl back home?”
Lance clamped down on the urge to snort. “Nope. Carly is Chris’s sister.” Was Chris’s sister, he silently amended.
He rubbed a hand over his jaw as he considered the letter. Chris Quigley, John Campbell, and Lance had been inseparable for years. They’d served together, gone on vacations together, and had each other’s backs in every way imaginable. The Three Musketeers, if those guys had been decked out in camo and hoisted guns in the Middle East instead of wearing tights and feathers.
John had gotten out of the army recently and made his way to some small town in Virginia. Lance missed the guy, but he knew John needed to get out. Too much shit had gone down.
Chris had left a couple years ago. Took a desk job at Fort Bragg, settled down, found a wife. Lance had been stateside for the wedding, and even he couldn’t deny how besotted his best friend was over his new wife.
Before anyone could blink, Chris announced the arrival of his daughter. The guy was living the dream, at least his version of the dream. A transient life with no responsibility would suit Lance just fine right about now. But then the accident claimed the lives of Chris and his wife.
Lance turned the envelope over and over in his hands while he let the fresh reminder of loss pass over him.
“Chris? Your friend that you served with, right?” Fred asked, clearly choosing his words carefully.
“Yep,” Lance replied.
“You still sending those presents to his kid?”
“When I can,” Lance said. He hadn’t seen Chris’s daughter Mya in about two years. As her godfather, it was nothing to ship off a toy or book every couple months.
“Why is Chris’s sister writing you?” Fred asked.
Lance shrugged, trying to keep the gesture nonchalant in an effort to hide the feelings that always bubbled up when he thought of Carly Quigley. He’d known Chris a long time before he actually met Carly, but he sure as hell heard a lot about her. Chris took advantage of every opportunity to mention her. The two had obviously been close.
“Gotta send something to Carly. Her birthday is coming up.”
“Carly graduated with honors from college. Must have gotten her smarts from me.”
“Carly decided to go to grad school. Didn’t I tell you she would get into that master’s program?”
“I’m stoked. Carly’s moving to Pine Springs. She’s gonna live with me and Gretch for a year or so.”
When Chris and Gretchen got married, Lance finally met the infamous Carly in the flesh. Lance refrained from letting out a long whistle now. Without a doubt, she had been the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. Mounds of curly red hair, fair skin, and a bubbly personality that drew him right in.
At the reception, they’d been seated next to each other. She’d kept him entertained with stories from college and her sorority. Then they’d danced together under the stars. If he closed his eyes, he could still feel her in his arms.
He shook his head. Because the thoughts he was having were just as inappropriate now as they were then. More so now. Carly was his best friend’s sister. His younger sister whom he adored. Not to mention, she’d only been, what? Twenty, twenty-one? She’d been a baby.
So when she’d asked him if he’d like to join her for a drink in her room, he’d made up an excuse and high-tailed it out of there so fast, he’d barely had time to notice the hurt expression on her face. Barely.
When Mya had been born, he’d visited as often as his leave schedule allowed. But Carly had never been around. She was either hanging with friends or on vacation. Lance had to wonder if that was on purpose.
“You gonna read that letter or keep stroking it lovingly?” Fred called out.
Lance displayed a finger of choice in response, and then he opened the envelope and pulled out the letter. It was short and sweet, including all the usual pleasantries civilians offered. How are you, hope you’re staying safe, blah, blah, blah. He scanned it over quickly and then froze.
So I was cleaning out Chris and Gretchen’s bedroom the other day, and I came across some of Chris’s things. I found this letter that he’d written a couple years ago. It was addressed to you. I’m not sure why the envelope is torn. It kinda looks like there may have been more to the letter, but I didn’t want to invade your privacy and read it.
I can’t believe it’s been nine months since the accident. I think about him every day. Of course, it’s hard not to when I’m taking care of Mya.
Anyway, I hope you’re doing well and this letter brings you some comfort.
Lance scanned the attached letter. He noticed a couple things right away. It was definitely Chris’s handwriting and had his stupid sense of humor. Honestly, who wrote a letter like this?
Carly was right—the envelope had been torn and the letter was incomplete. He was definitely curious what else Chris had to say, although he thought he got the gist of it. Leaning back against his pillow, he reread Chris’s words one more time, slowly this time. When he came to the last part, his pulse picked up and his palms began sweating. Watch over Carly’s dating life? Keep her away from the bad guys? What the hell did that mean?
He read the letter for a third time. Well, he was decent at baseball. Probably could teach the kid a thing or two.
Lance exhaled, long and slow.
Chris’s daughter was living with Carly. She was her guardian. If he was understanding this letter correctly, Chris wanted him to check in on the house and Mya. That could get awkward with Carly, but Lance would suffer through any kind of discomfort if it meant fulfilling his best friend’s wishes.
Scanning the date at the top, Lance did some quick math. This had been written two years ago. The house was likely renovated by now, so he probably wouldn’t need to stay long.
Still grasping the letter, Lance looked up at a picture tacked above his bed. Chris had an arm around Lance with that goofy grin he always wore. Despite appearances, that had been a particularly rough day. They’d almost gotten into some dangerous shit. But, just like always, Chris had saved the day. Saved him. Lance would do anything for the guy.
Fred plopped down next to him. “So, what’s first? One of my choice cities? How about New York? Hanging out in the Big Apple.” He jammed a finger into Lance’s arm. “Or why don’t you blow the U.S. and go hang out in Amsterdam? I heard some crazy shit goes down over there.”
Lance took in Fred then glanced back at the letter.
“You are about to be the man. Total bachelor who can do what he wants, when he wants, where he wants. Come on, Townsend, what’s first?”
A feeling of unease settled over him the way the sand and the dust had been known to cover their temporary home.
“Looks like I’m heading to Pine Springs, North Carolina.”
Kerri Carpenter began writing in her grandmother’s kitchen at the age of seven in a small town outside of Pittsburgh, PA. A life-long fan of reading, she got lost in the worlds of The Baby-sitters Club and Sweet Valley High. She also assumed that everyone had characters and plots forming in their heads at all times.
Once she turned to romance novels, she couldn’t get enough of books with happy endings, so she started writing her own. Now, Kerri writes contemporary romances, usually set in small towns. She enjoys reading, cooking, watching movies, taking Zumba classes, rooting for Pittsburgh sports teams, and anything sparkly. Kerri lives in Northern Virginia with her adorable (and mischievous) poodle mix, Harry.