Read NextMoves Online

Authors: Sabrina Garie

NextMoves

BOOK: NextMoves
10.59Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads
Next Move

Sabrina Garie

 

Chamber of Commerce CEO and single
mother Jocelyn Wade plays to win—in the boardroom, at local politics and for
her daughter. With an overloaded life and a heart scarred shut, she doesn’t do
relationships. Ever. Until Jared Wyatt, the hot out-of-town fling she can’t
seem to forget swaggers into her life with a different agenda—making Jocelyn
his own.

Surviving a shattered marriage,
Jared swore off women until a night of unparalleled passion with Jocelyn
reawakens needs he thought long gone. When a new job as high school athletic
director lands him in Jocelyn’s town, where sports and business rule, he must
stay one move ahead of her in the game to win her body and heart.

After rancorous local politics
upend their game board, they both must learn to trust again or lose a second
chance at love.

 

A Romantica®
contemporary erotic romance
from
Ellora’s Cave

Next Move

Sabrina Garie

Acknowledgements

 

Thanks and lots of love goes to a wonderful circle of
writers/critique partners who keep me laughing throughout the insane but always
wonderful process of writing. They are (in alphabetical order) Ellie, Fiona,
Jennifer, Mary, Millie, Sarah and Tonya. You ladies rock.

And to my editor Grace, who guides with a warm heart, a firm
hand and a needed sense of humor to put up with all of the Fallen Angels.

 

Chapter One

 

Her Blackberry glued to her ear, Jocelyn Wade shoved the
hotel room door open with her hip and dragged her monogrammed blue valise
inside. “The fight was just too easy, Dad. Premier Health rolled over on the
first day of negotiations. No fun at all. Let me speak to Kylie.”

Slumped against the wall, she listened to her daughter
babble on, switching topics rapid-fire in mid-sentence. Her free hand massaged
her temples to stave off a headache by sheer force of will until Kylie’s
monologue slowed to a halt. “Take care of your granddad and remind him to take
his meds. I love you, baby girl.”

Done with the Blackberry, she placed it on the scraped,
mottled skin of the desk and hoisted her suitcase onto the edge of the
king-size bed. Overstuffed pillows in starched white cases scattered onto the
floor, covering cigarette burns in the frayed carpet. The hotel ranked dive but
she was lucky to have the room. The hurricane rerouted her plane to some
middle-of-nowhere regional airport where hotels, salad greens and internet
connections were a scarce commodity. But even the rattling window panes
couldn’t spoil her good mood. A successful deal and now a night alone—no
employees, family members, board of directors or businesses pulling at her from
every direction. Nirvana.

Trading in the suit and heels for jeans and sandals would
verge on perfection. After weeks of planning, meetings, soothing egos and
eighteen-hour days to prepare for yesterday’s negotiation, she deserved to
unwind, gloat a little—make that a lot—and escape into a drink and a good book.

She threw the lid open and pulled out a man’s large black
windbreaker with the words Johnson High Soccer emblazoned across the back in
blocky gold letters.
Not my stuff.
“A new wardrobe for my glorious new
digs,” she said to the nineteen-sixties television that hogged up all the
remaining space in the room.

With a laugh, she contacted the airlines. On the ninth
attempt, she bypassed the busy signal to butt heads with the automated
answering system. After an hour of pushing buttons and humming along to the
not-so-greatest hits of the nineties, she slammed the phone down. Pacing away
what was left of the carpet, she called the hotel reception on a lark. Jackpot.

“There’s a man down here with a blue suitcase that he claims
isn’t his,” said the receptionist. “I’ll send him to the bar. Why don’t you
meet him there and make the switch?”

Her mood restored, she folded the jacket for repacking. A
pair of black silk boxers slipped onto the floor. She picked them up,
absentmindedly twirling the smooth material between her fingertips.
Sexy, I
wonder what else he’s hiding in here. Bad Joci, the man deserves his privacy.
Biting her lip to keep herself from snooping, she zipped up the suitcase and
headed to the lobby.

A hole-in-the-wall bar hid in the far corner of the hotel.
The place buzzed with stranded travelers drowning their frustrations in
pint-sized beers and posy-pink cocktails while their kids picked at the
wallpaper and ducked under rickety tables in games of hide and seek. Jocelyn
scanned the room, her attention drawn to a broad-shouldered man sitting at the
bar. His long fingers traced the rim of a scotch glass, half full with amber
liquid. No mini umbrellas or skewered maraschino cherries in sight. Her luggage
leaned against the bar at the man’s feet. She headed toward it.

“Hello, I’m Jocelyn Wade. I believe you have my suitcase.”

He stood to greet her. “Jared Wyatt.”

Oh Lord, he’s luscious.
Jocelyn clasped his
outstretched hand, holding it longer than necessary. Her eyes swallowed him
whole from his too-long black hair to well-worn roper boots. The in-between
stuff wasn’t bad either. Faded black jeans molded to long, lean, well-muscled
thighs, a black t-shirt strained against corded biceps and ice-blue eyes
twinkled in amusement at her blatant inspection of his assets.

With equal bravado, he looked up and down her body in
obvious appreciation. Those piercing eyes burned into her and sparked a flash
fire in her womb. Her nipples and toes tingled.

Whoa. When was the last time a man revved up her engine with
a glance? She stayed miles away from relationships. Men left messes in their
wake she was tired of bleaching clean. An attention-challenged child, an aging
father, a school system to reform and a major organization to run stretched her
too thin and pushed her to the edge. Keeping it together was what she did, who
she was. Jocelyn Wade, superwoman, savior of towns, businesses and children—and
yet still cook, chauffeur and bottle washer, stuffing her own needs and desires
deep inside. It had been a long time since any man made her feel desirable. She
liked it.

“Thanks for returning my bag.” Jared’s deep baritone filled
the room. “Can I buy you a drink? We have nowhere else to be right now.”

“If only. Have Blackberry, can be found. But a drink sounds
lovely, while the thing’s quiet. Thank you.”

She took the stool next to him and scooted it toward the
bar. Her leg brushed his and the warmth of it encouraged her to linger there
longer than proper. The scent of musk and sandalwood drifted up her nose and
scrambled her brain. To clear her head and regain control, she checked her
e-mail a few times then placed the phone next to his scotch glass and waved the
bartender to her.

“Martini. Dry. Three olives. One skewer. Double the napkins
underneath.”

“A woman used to giving orders.”

Her eyebrows arched so high they hit her hairline. Crap. Not
another he-man male who disapproved of a woman in authority. She dealt with
them all the time in business. They were easy to handle in the boardroom, but
she preferred them fenced out of her personal space. “Yes, I am. Is that a
problem for you?”

“Not at all. I like people who play to win.” He cracked open
a smile that Jocelyn knew melted many a woman’s heart because hers was
dripping. His eyes lasered into hers and dared her to look away.

“How rare.”
How refreshing.
She beamed right back at
him, burrowing into that bright-blue gaze as if she’d just found home. How did
this guy, this stranger, just flip-flop her from annoyed to interested in a
heartbeat? Maybe because he wasn’t cringing in terror or trying to show her
who’s boss, the most common reactions she drew from men. Perhaps those
shoulders—so wide she could nest in them.

Her Blackberry buzzed.
Not again.
The number jogged
across the screen. She hit
ignore
. “So how did you end up in this
paradise by a parking lot?”

“Job opportunity. I got an offer I couldn’t refuse even
though it means moving. I was signing contracts, house-hunting, finding the
best wine cellars and running trails. You?”

“Returning home from a business trip. I had to convince the
corporation that just bought my city’s largest employer to keep its doors open.
If they closed shop, we’d have lost over two hundred jobs.”

“You won I bet.”

She nodded and could not suppress the smile that flashed
across her face. The phone vibrated. She quieted it, her fingers ran along the
back of Jared’s hand holding the scotch glass. Dry, jagged patches crisscrossed
warm skin where fingers met knuckles.

“You work with your hands.” A nice change from the
number-crunching MBAs in power ties and pinstripes who inhabited her world.

“Used to. I coach now. What’s got you jetting around rescuing
businesses under threat?”

“Chamber of Commerce President and CEO.” He’d find a way to
bolt. Men often did when she dropped the job-title bombshell.

“That explains the custom-made gray suit. But I can’t
connect it with the red lace and green silk lingerie you have hidden in your
luggage.” His smile was all innocence, his eyes all sin.

Her brows knit together and displeasure etched cool lines
across her face. “You went through my things?” A blush blazed across her cheeks
and crawled down her neck. She had stashed a vibrator with the undies. It
helped her unwind after the stress of negotiations. This man did not need to
know her nighttime needs.

“Come on, you didn’t look through mine? Not even a little?”
The smoky-vanilla aroma of single-malt whisky tickled her nose and the rich
timbre of his voice had goose bumps marching across the back of her neck.

“No of course I didn’t. It’s private and there are rules
about these things.” The martini she gulped burned its way down her throat and
distracted her from the anger sloshing around in her gut. She’d been enjoying
this little flirtation while her real life was still on the other side of the
hurricane. No more.

“I’m not big on rules. I won’t apologize since I thought it
was mine when I opened it up. Frankly, what’s underneath is a lot more
revealing than what you wear on the outside…in more ways than one.”

Observant bastard.
She blasted a frigid glare in his
direction. “How can you coach kids if you don’t play by the rules?”

“Oh darlin’, it’s because I don’t that I’m so damn good at
what I do. I wasn’t looking for a new job but folks came courting. Quite a few
of ’em. You need to relax, little lady.” His switch to a drawl signaled that
she may have hit a nerve. That smug grin suggested he had found the vibrator.
Damn.

“We play by the rules in my town.” Her voice squeaked and
the response was lame. Not the powerful CEO-style comeback she wanted. How
could a man she’d just met throw her off her game? She swirled on the barstool
to break eye contact, gulp some air…and landed under a juice waterfall.

Arms flailing, red-faced and screaming at the top of his
lungs, a young boy had thrown the contents of his cup down the front of her
suit. Ice cubes and fruit punch slid down her front and sent shivers from her
chest to her fingertips. Her jacket and shirt cold and ruined.

The yelling brought her back to the child. Tears
flash-flooded down his cheeks. The bar clientele had quieted down, all
attention focused on the boy’s accelerating tantrum. Several patrons made a
beeline for the front door and slowed the movement of one couple, probably the
parents, heading toward the youth.

To buy them time, Jocelyn opened her purse and grabbed
several balloons she kept in there. “Hey, sweetheart, look what I have here.”
Blowing one up, she handed him another. “Take a try.” Balloons forced a person
to take deep breaths, a calming strategy that had worked with her daughter.

The boy’s wildly gesticulating arms slapped the balloons out
of her hands and onto the floor.

“Hey, buddy, I have a game you might like.” Jared had
grabbed the TV remote from the bar and offered it to the child. The boy stared
at it. The tears kept coming but the hand gestures stopped when he took the
gadget.

“This is a special remote. It controls emotions. Yellow is
for calm. Red for anger. Green for happy. Blue for sad. I think you’re red now.
Want to change it?” Jared signaled the bartender to pull the plug on the
television set.

The boy hesitantly took the device and pushed the red
button, but the tears didn’t stop. Jared bent on one knee to face the boy
eye-to-eye. “What’s your name, buddy?”

“Ryan,” he croaked out between wails.

“Well, Ryan, why don’t you push the yellow one and keep
pushing it until you feel better. Can you do that for me?”

He nodded and his thumb thumped the button repeatedly.

“Good job, Ryan,” Jared said and paraded that smile that
clearly worked with kids as well as women.

The tears stopped and his parents, who’d finally escaped the
crowd, swooped in to claim him. Child in hand, they thanked Jared and fawned
all over Jocelyn with apologies and offers to pay the dry cleaning bill. She
politely waved away the money. “The costs are nothing to worry about.”

After the family left Jared helped her get the ruined jacket
off. Big mistake. The juice molded the white blouse to her torso and revealed
every thread of her beige lace push-up bra and her diamond-hard nipples to
everyone in the bar.

Appreciation danced across Jared’s face followed by
awareness. He threw his arm around her shoulder and yanked her against his
chest to cover her breasts. “I was so right. You’re fire underneath the
starch,” he whispered in her ear. She should hate him but was grateful for the
cover and his look made her tingly. Grabbing her luggage, purse and phone and
yelling a quick reminder to the bartender he’d be back for his suitcase, he
shuttled her out of the bar to the ladies’ room to change. The man took control
with panache.

The weight of his arm on her shoulder and that musky
sandalwood aroma stole her focus. The anger his intrusion into her privacy
generated paled after witnessing Jared’s compassion and comfort when dealing
with the child. How did he know what to do? Jared handed her the suitcase and
she hustled inside the ladies’ room to snatch some needed personal space.

The stuffy air and isolation of the bathroom arrived as a
welcome relief from the chaos of thoughts and emotions that set up shop in her
head. Suitcase on the sink, she opened it up to find her clothes neatly folded.
Had he not told her he’d snooped, she wouldn’t have known. She whipped off the
wet shirt and bra and threw on a silk camisole top, enough coverage to get to
her room with her reputation intact.

Jared waited with her phone, purse and an intense,
passion-filled stare that skated down her body, leaving shudders in its wake.
The Blackberry had several texts waiting on the screen for her with a to-do
list that would eat up the rest of the afternoon. Duty crashed down on her like
an avalanche.

Life. Is. Not. Fair. Work had always been her salvation and
place to shine. Lately, the shackles felt too tight, the chores never ending,
the obligations transformed from joy to burden. With the raven-haired Adonis
scanning her as if she were next on his menu, those fetters of obligation cut
too deep. They were bleeding her dry. She blinked back a tension headache
crawling from her temples to her cheekbones. Whether she liked it or not, the
job had to be done and she never let anyone down.

BOOK: NextMoves
10.59Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

The Artificial Mirage by T. Warwick
The Man Who Loved Children by Christina Stead
Adam & Eve (Eve's Room) by Love, Lilian
The Passionate Enemies by Jean Plaidy
Through the Maelstrom by Rebekah Lewis
Sweetest Salvation by Kacey Hammell
Heart of Stone by Cathryn Cade
Privileged to Kill by Steven F. Havill