Authors: Liz Lee
Close to Home
Close to Home
By Liz Lee
©Liz Lee 2013 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. This book contains material protected under International and Federal Copyright Laws and Treaties. Any unauthorized reprint or use of this material is prohibited. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without express written permission from the author / publisher.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places, events and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Kacie Jo Jenkins stood outside the door to her brother’s apartment and tried to calm her fluttering nerves.
Okay. So if Grady found out her real reason for knocking on his door, she was toast. And while she agreed he’d have every reason in the world to be furious, she felt she had no choice.
Donovan Nelson was in town exactly forty-eight hours. She didn’t have time to play nice. She was tired of playing nice anyway. Twenty-four years of being the good girl had finally undone her. Nothing and no one was stopping her now.
No siree. She had a plan, and she was bound and determined to reach her goal. She’d been waiting for this chance for years.
The plan: shock the men behind this door senseless. The goal: the seduction of Donovan Nelson.
Luckily, she had reinforcements.
“If you don’t knock on that door in ten seconds, I’m going to.” Reinforcement number one, her best and dearest friend Eliza Miller.
“And quit fidgeting. You look great in that outfit.” Reinforcement number two, a white cropped tee shirt and jeans she’d usually consider one size too small that had her feeling a little light headed.
“But before you knock, you might want to wipe the lipstick off your teeth.”
Kacie Jo did just that as she took one final calming breath. Reinforcement number three: a knock his socks off makeover that had depleted her resources but made her look like a rock star. Definitely worth every penny.
And with that, Kacie Jo set her plan in motion with three small knocks, a great big smile and an aluminum pan of Better than Sex cake. The boys wouldn’t be too happy about having their night interrupted, but she bet the cake could buy her entrance into their realm.
And once she was inside, the result was history. She’d written the ending to this night too many times over to be dissuaded now. No matter what, Donovan Nelson was hers. Tonight. No excuses.
Donovan Nelson was tired. Tired of chasing the latest story, tired of constantly moving, tired of talking and listening and reporting and giving reports.
Most of all he was tired of running away from the ghosts that haunted his memories every time he closed his eyes.
He didn’t know what he was doing back home. Maybe he was just ready to bask in the glory of small town celebrity status for a little while. Ready to pretend war stories didn’t really matter. Ready to find solace in the arms of some woman who understood about the sanctity of the one night stand.
And then…well, it was that pause that was the damn problem. There was no then. He just knew he had to rest.
Rest might be easier if he could escape the memories, the scents, the night sweats that kept him awake until daybreak.
He accepted a long neck bottle of Texas brewed beer from his best friend Grady Jenkins and popped the top.
Grady had been right. A night with the guys playing cards and watching hockey was just what the doctor ordered.
Trading laughs and telling
stories made him forget, and he needed to forget. God, he needed to forget.
The knock at the door sounded at the same time a defenseman scored and all hell broke loose on the ice, and Donovan almost laughed out loud at the disgruntled frowns on his friends’ faces. The looks said it all
With a long-suffering sigh, Grady stood and headed to the door. “Sorry guys. You know I can’t just make her leave.”
No need to explain who the her was. Kacie Jo’d never been one to understand the meaning of the words guys’ night. He was kind of looking forward to seeing the kid. She’d kept him entertained years before, and her letters had found him wherever he ended up once he’d started as foreign correspondent.
During his college years, he’d enjoyed Grady’s Kacie Jo stories from back home. He’d watched her grow up, and he’d known she’d be hell on wheels when she finally realized what a pretty girl could do to a room full of men.
While in school, he’d made a point to stop by and see her every break. For the six years he’d been away, he’d never once missed sending a birthday or Christmas card. He’d even managed a couple phone calls for her graduation first from high school and then from college. She was like his kid sister, an extended part of his family.
So the knock on the door didn’t bother him a bit. He couldn’t wait to see if Kacie Jo had moved beyond the tomboy she’d been and developed into the pure grace she’d been born to.
The minute the door opened, his questions were answered.
“Sorry boys. I know you were trying to have strictly boys’ night out, but I figured this might make up for my intrusion.”
Her husky voice was a combination of naughty and nice, and as she held out the pan, almost every man in the room forgot about the game on the television. He'd already beaten them all to the land of forgetfulness. Holy Geez. This temptress was not
“Gentlemen, what you see before you is my very own recipe. Actually I found it in a cookbook, but I made a few minor adjustments. I’ve heard tell there’s nothing better. It’s called Better Than Sex cake.” She set the pan on the coffee table and her smile enveloped everyone. “Enjoy.”
For a second, hungry silence greeted her words and then everyone jumped up at once.
“Here, Kacie Jo, let me.”
“Don’t be silly, you’re not…”
“Cake, dang, Kacie Jo, I didn’t know you cooked.”
Stunned, Donovan watched the pandemonium unfold. The girl he’d known had definitely become a woman who knew what she wanted and knew how to get it.
She strolled around the room as if she owned it, flirting and teasing the men she’d known practically all her life, perfectly at ease with being the center of attention. Her clothes seemed to accentuate every flirty pose. The shirt sneaking up to show just a little more of her tanned skin. The pants riding a little lower around her hips until they stopped on her curves.
He bet his last paycheck she wore the jeans beltless on purpose. She was definitely on a mission. Which of the men here had become the object of Kacie Jo Jenkins’ desire? Whoever he was, he didn’t stand a chance.
Her curly brown hair now had sexy streaks of blonde running through it. Her eyes were darker than he remembered and her lips…well, he wasn’t going to sit around thinking about Kacie Jo’s lips.
Thinking about her lips was completely, totally off limits. As he told himself that again and again, Donovan caught Grady’s frown across the room. Obviously, Kacie Jo's brother didn’t like what he saw. And since he was in a deep discussion with the friend Kacie Jo’d brought over with her, Donovan figured Grady didn’t like what he was hearing, either.
But he didn’t have time to worry about that because Kacie Jo’d finally spied him on the couch.
“Donovan Nelson, don’t you just sit there. Get over here and give me a hug.”
Simply observing her in action was interesting. Having her attention focused completely on him was something else. He reached her in a few seconds and laughed as she launched herself into his arms just as she had so many times before.
“I can’t believe you’re really here!” She grabbed his hand and pulled him back to the couch. “Tell me all about it. Did you really interview an Arabian princess? Did you stay in the desert for months on end? Is that why your hair is so long now?”
Donovan laughed as she shot question after question at him, and he tried to make his brain think about her words and not about how soft her hands were, how ample her curves had become, and those lips….
“Whew, slow down a minute, kiddo. I've got to get my bearings here.”
She looked up at him with that flirty smile that promised too much, and then she settled her eyes on his and gave him her undivided attention.
Green. Her eyes were green. He didn’t remember what that meant about her mood. He just remembered they changed colors with her emotions from green to almost blue.
And she still had freckles. God, she’d hated them before. Did she still?
He was so glad to see her. He didn’t know why exactly, other than the fact that she truly was like a part of his family, and she’d always been able to make him laugh. Lord knows he needed to laugh. In a few minutes he'd get over the fact that she looked like a centerfold instead of a kid sister.
At least Grady could quit with the worried frown he kept sending their way. Whomever Kacie Jo'd set out to entice was out of luck. She’d want to talk to him for hours judging by the way she sat there on the couch waiting for him to speak.
“Yes, I did interview a princess. And yes, I did stay in the desert for over a year. And yes, that is why my hair is long.”
He’d forgotten about the hair. It was part of him now. He desperately wanted to forget about the princess. But he hadn’t forgotten the feel of the desert wind or the way the sand blew all the time or the way the sun burned his bare skin.
Kind of the way it felt now, sitting on his best friend’s couch, talking to his best friend’s little sister, looking in her eyes and hearing her voice and knowing he wanted to run his hand down her cheek to see if was as soft as it looked….
He practically jumped off the couch as the thought skittered through his mind. What the hell was wrong with him?
And then Kacie Jo reached over and actually lifted a piece of his hair, twirled it around her finger with utmost concentration as if she were trying to decipher a new scientific equation before letting it drop.
“I like it long. There’s just something about a man with long, dark hair that reminds me of pirates and lost treasure.”
Donovan's gut dropped to the toes of his boots as the truth hit him at the same time arousal did. He was in trouble here. Big time trouble. Kacie Jo’s sights were definitely set on one man in this room, and her brother had every reason in the world to be worried. Because the man Kacie Jo was interested in was the biggest SOB in town.
She might think she wanted a chance with him, but Donovan knew better. Kacie Jo didn’t want the real him. She wanted some crazy fantasy that didn’t exist. And he wasn’t about to do something stupid.
But he didn’t want to hurt her feelings. “I’m going tomorrow to get it cut.”
That didn’t faze her a bit.
“Pity.” She stretched her arms over her head, making sure he caught a full glimpse of just how well she’d developed over the last six years and then leaned forward. “So tell us all about it. Was it everything they say? Primitive? Exotic? Exciting?”
Her inclusion of everyone else didn’t fool him for a second. Kacie Jo was playing a dangerous game. Thankfully, she’d chosen someone like him to play it with. She wouldn’t get hurt. He’d make sure of it.