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Authors: Sheryl Lister

Tender Kisses

BOOK: Tender Kisses
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What he'll do for love

Siobhan Gray has had it with men who view her as a stepping stone to a career with her family's successful home-safety company. Even when a sexy stranger sweeps her onto the dance floor at a gala awards event, the twice-burned PR director vows not to let down her guard. Siobhan doesn't count on Justin Cartwright's persistence as he dissolves her doubts and slowly wins her trust with a passion that tempts her to believe in love again.

Justin is a man with a plan: partner with Gray Home Safety to deliver his new cutting-edge product to the market. But the tall, sensual beauty is derailing all his best intentions. Then he discovers who she really is. Now he stands to lose everything...unless he can convince Siobhan that nothing matters more than their blossoming relationship—and the future they can build together.

“Dance with me,” Justin said when another ballad came on.

Siobhan followed him back out to the dance floor and wrapped her arms around his neck.

“I'm glad they're playing a lot of slow songs, because I like holding you in my arms.”

“I like it, too.”

A slow grin curved Justin's lips. “Then we'll need to do it more often.” He touched his mouth to hers.

“Every chance we get,” he whispered.

They danced through every slow song that played, and by the time he took her home, her body and mind were in a jumble.

“Thank you, again, for coming to the party with me,” she said as they stood in her entryway.

“I enjoyed myself.”

She leaned up, intending to give him a quick kiss, but as soon as their lips touched and he swept his hot tongue into her mouth, all rational thoughts went out the window. Justin deepened the kiss, thoroughly exploring every inch of her mouth.

He broke it off and rested his forehead against hers. “I'd better leave while I still can.”

Siobhan nodded, though she wasn't sure she really wanted him to leave. He kissed her once more and slipped out the door.

She closed her eyes and leaned against it, her breathing still ragged. She hadn't planned on meeting a man like him and didn't know how long she would be able to keep her guard up.

Dear Reader,

I'm excited to introduce you to The Grays of Los Angeles. Nolan and DeAnna Gray have worked hard to build a legacy for their children. But their most fervent desire is for each of them to experience the joy of an enduring love.

First is Siobhan Gray, the oldest of five, dynamic PR director and a certified control freak.
isn't in her vocabulary...until she meets Justin Cartwright. Justin is just the man to show her how to have a little fun because, frankly, he's forgotten, too. I thoroughly enjoyed watching them learn to balance work, fun and falling in love. I hope you do, as well.

I appreciate your emails and messages. I love hearing from you!

Baby sister Morgan Gray takes center stage next, and I can't wait for you to see what's in store for her. Fast cars, football and, just maybe, love.

Much love,


[email protected]
Author Sheryl Lister

Sheryl Lister
has enjoyed reading and writing for as long as she can remember. She writes contemporary and inspirational romance and romantic suspense. Her first novel,
Just to Be with You
, earned her a 2015 Romance Slam Jam nomination for Debut Author of the Year. When she's not reading, writing or playing chauffeur, Sheryl can be found on a date with her husband or in the kitchen creating appetizers and bite-size desserts. Sheryl resides in California and is a wife and a mother of three daughters and a son-in-love. She's also a grandmother to a very special little boy.

Books by Sheryl Lister

Harlequin Kimani Romance

Just to Be with You
All of Me
It's Only You
Tender Kisses

Visit the Author Profile page at
for more titles.

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To my husband, Lance, my children, family and friends for your continued support. I appreciate and love you!


My Heavenly Father, thank You for my life.

A special thank you to the readers and authors I've met on this journey. You've enriched my life in more ways than you know.

Special thank you to my editor, Rachel Burkot, for your editorial guidance and support. I'll miss you!

A very special thank you to my agent, Sarah E. Younger. I appreciate you more than words can say.

Chapter 1

wonder if I can hold my breath for five minutes.
Siobhan Gray tried to edge away and create some space between her and her dance partner. The potency of the man's cologne—she swore he had bathed in it—had her on the verge of passing out. Instead of holding her breath, maybe she should take one big whiff and put herself out of this misery. The effect would be the same.

“You seem too young to be handling all the PR for your family's company,” he said, breaking into her thoughts.

She pasted a smile on her face while he went on and on about Gray Home Safety. She caught the gazes of her two best friends, who stood across the room with wide grins. Siobhan rolled her eyes and groaned inwardly.

“Did you say something?” her dance partner asked.

Had that groan slipped out? “No, nothing. Just humming along with the music,” she lied.
How long is this song, anyway?
When it finally ended, he didn't release her.

“Isn't this nice?” he asked, tightening his hold.

About as nice as dancing naked in an ice storm.
The move came with another gust of his cologne, and Siobhan nearly gagged. She was done. “If you'll excuse me, there's someone I need to speak to.” She stepped away from him so fast she stumbled, but quickly righted herself.

He caught her arm. “Are you okay?”

She gave him a tense smile. “Fine, thanks. And thank you for the dance.” She turned and started from the floor. Three steps in, she realized he was right behind her.

“Hold on a minute.” He chuckled nervously. “I was hoping, Sio—Siyo—”

she said impatiently.

“Yes, yes. It's a nice name. What I wanted to ask,
, is do you think you can pass along my card to your father? I have this great home—”

Siobhan cut him off and ignored the business card in his hand. “Mr....”

“Benson,” he supplied.

“Mr. Benson, if you have a product, idea or anything else, you should speak directly to my father or my brother Brandon.” She pointed them out. “Now, if you'll excuse me.” She stalked off without waiting for his reply and headed straight for the balcony.

Once outside, she inhaled deeply and drew in a lungful of the sweet night air. She braced her hands on the railing and tried to rein in her anger. As PR director for Gray Home Safety, it seemed as if every man in attendance at tonight's gala thought they could sweet-talk their way into the family's company. Siobhan had been here for only an hour and, so far, four men had approached her. The conversations started pleasantly enough but, within a few minutes, ended the same—with a pitch for the next great thing in home safety. She had heard it all, from stair lifts to heated shower chairs.

She was proud of the company her father had started upon his discharge from the army. While he had returned whole, his best friend had not. Disheartened by the difficulty in getting services and accommodations for the disabled, Nolan Gray decided to do something about it by designing them himself. Her father's friend, Thaddeus Whitcomb, joined the company as a minor partner soon after. More than two decades later, the small company housed in their garage was now one of the largest in-home safety companies in the country. Her brother Khalil had taken the company to a new level when he designed accessible equipment for the fitness center he opened two years ago.

“Here you are, Siobhan. We wondered where you went.”

Siobhan turned from the rail to find her two best friends. “I bet you did, Cynthia.”

“We saw you dancing. Was he a nice man?” Cynthia Johnson was a die-hard romantic. From the time the three of them became best friends in fourth grade, Cynthia had been planning their happily-ever-afters. Siobhan was the only one who hadn't found her prince.

“Of course he wasn't,” Kendra Martin tossed out with a chuckle. “Didn't you see her face, Cyn?”

“It couldn't have been that bad.”

Kendra leaned close to Siobhan and wrinkled her nose. “Girl, what kind of perfume is that?”

“I'm not wearing any perfume. It must be what's left of Mr. Benson's cologne. I thought I was going to pass out.”

Kendra waved a hand. “That is not cologne. It smells more like toi—”

“Don't say it,” Cynthia interrupted.

The three women looked at each other and burst out laughing. Siobhan shook her head. “He was the worst of the four men tonight.” She frowned. “I'm tired of men trying to come on to me for the sole purpose of working their way into the family business.” She had already traveled that road and had the remnants of the broken heart to prove it. And she was still trying to rebuild her bank account from the fiasco.

“Well, if you dressed like you were thirty-three, instead of seventy-three, men would be tossing you something more than their business cards,” Kendra said bluntly.

Siobhan stared down at her dress. “What's wrong with my dress?”

“I think it's beautiful,” Cynthia said.

Kendra rolled her eyes. “It is a beautiful dress...for my
. For one thing, it's long sleeved. For another, you're all buttoned up like a nun. It's all right to show a little cleavage. And, to be honest, it's too big.”

Siobhan placed her hand on her hip. “Why don't you tell me how you really feel, Kendra? I'm not wearing some dress so tight I can barely walk.”

“It doesn't have to be skintight, but the material should at least do a drive-by on your curves.”

“In case you've forgotten, I'm a size fourteen, not four.”

“And with your five-eight height, those curves are in all the right places. Hell, if I had any semblance of your shape, you'd better believe I'd be flaunting it.”

“I don't do this often,” Cynthia started, “but I have to agree with Kendra this time.”

Siobhan sighed heavily. She knew her body was in good shape, toned and tight in all the right places, but had dressed purposely to keep men at a distance.

“Stop letting Arthur ruin your life,” Cynthia added softly.

Siobhan turned back to the rail, not wanting them to see how much Arthur's deception still affected her. After two years, the mention of his name shouldn't conjure up all the same hurt and anger, but it did.

Kendra came and stood next to her. “Siobhan, you have so much going for you. You're intelligent, beautiful and one of the sweetest people I know. Stop hiding. It's time for you to come out and play again. You were always the outgoing, fun one when we were growing up. Ever since—”

, Kendra. That was a long time ago, and I'm over it.” Siobhan's two friends viewed her skeptically. “I'm still the same me—fun and outgoing. I just haven't found anyone to have fun with,” she added wryly, trying to lighten the mood. Though truthfully, she hadn't been looking for fun. All she wanted was to do her job and make her family proud.

Cynthia, standing on the other side of Siobhan, playfully bumped Siobhan's shoulder. “You never know—your real Prince Charming could be here tonight and you're out here sulking.”

“I don't know what I'm going to do with you two,” Siobhan muttered.

Kendra laughed. “Hey, we're trying to get a couple of godchildren. Cyn's baby girl and this one here,” she said, rubbing her baby bump, “need a godsister or brother.”

Siobhan glanced down and smiled. “Somehow, I think I may have to settle for being a godmother.” She was thirty-three years old and, as much as she wanted marriage and children, Siobhan didn't see herself allowing another man to get close. In fact, she thought it better to officially retire from the game of love altogether.

* * *

“Thanks for the invite.” Justin Cartwright shook his longtime friend's hand. He and Robert Mitchell had been college roommates and bonded through their mutual love of technology. While Justin had continued to pursue a career in technology, Bobby changed directions to help his ailing grandfather run the family's winery.

“No problem, man. I figured with all the home-safety companies here tonight, you could get that next idea off the ground. It's even better than the first one. I can't tell you how much I love your first one. Those electronic floor sensors are the best I've seen on the market. If this next one is as good, you'll have companies lined up.”

“I appreciate the endorsement, Bobby. Maybe I should have you taking care of marketing,” he added with a chuckle.

“Five years ago, I might've taken you up on your offer. Now I actually like the wine business.” Bobby's gaze shifted to a man approaching then back to Justin. “That's Charles Hickson. He might be someone you want to talk to.” Bobby had contacts throughout the business world.

Justin nodded and greeted the man in question. He had read up on Hickson's company, as well as several others. But he was interested in only one company—Gray Home Safety, one of the largest in the country. The floor sensors had done well and afforded him a comfortable lifestyle, but partnering with the Grays would catapult Justin's new idea to another level and have far-reaching benefits for both parties. He'd researched everything he could find on the company and determined working with them would be his best shot at making his new alert system a household name. “What do you know about Gray Home Safety?”

“The Grays?”

“Yeah. You know them?”

“We met about a year ago. They're cool people, down-to-earth. At least a couple of his sons and daughters work there. The one brother I met is a sharp businessman. The daughter is a helluva PR director. I've never seen anybody handle the media and negative press the way she does. On the personal side, she's pretty nice but tends to keep people at a distance. Is that the company you're targeting?”

“Yes. I want the best, and they're it.”

Bobby smiled. “I can introduce you, if you want.”

“No, thanks. I'm sure I can handle an introduction.” Justin scanned the ballroom again and zeroed in on the beautiful woman on the dance floor. He had spotted her when she arrived earlier and noticed that she carried herself with the regal bearing of a queen. She was tall, wore her hair in a short curly style and had him absolutely mesmerized. He hadn't been able to keep his concentration on the task at hand for staring at her. His gaze narrowed. That was the third or fourth man he had seen her dancing with. Either she was very popular, or she was somebody big in the safety industry. The latter didn't bother him because he had only one company in mind. He kept one eye on her while sipping his drink and listening to Bobby. When the song ended, Justin watched as the man followed the woman from the dance floor and handed her what appeared to be a business card. Just as he suspected, the man was trying to pitch his idea. “Excuse me, Bobby. I want to do some mingling. I'll catch up with you later.”

Bobby nodded. “Good luck. Not that you need it. Let me know if there's anything I can do. I'm cutting out early. So, I'll call you later this week.”

The two men parted ways, and Justin headed in the direction he saw her go. Halfway there, a man caught his arm.

“Well, if it isn't Justin Cartwright. How've you been?” he said, grabbing Justin's hand.

The man pumped Justin's arm so hard he thought it would fall off. “Just fine, sir.”

He grinned. “I've been keeping up with you and hearing some great things about your sensors.”

“Really?” Three years ago, Justin had approached the man about backing his floor sensors and had been all but tossed out of the office. But he had persevered without any backing, and now his floor sensors were among the best available.

“Yes, yes. So, do you have any new products coming to market?”

“Not yet. If you'll excuse me, I need to speak to someone. Enjoy your evening.” Not waiting for a reply, he left the man standing there. As much as he wanted to tell the man exactly where he could go, Justin didn't believe in burning bridges in business. Now it was back to his original mission—the beauty in gold. For a moment, he lost her in the crowd then spotted her exiting to the balcony on the far side of the room. Two other people stopped him before he made it to the balcony.

“If I have to dance with one more scheming stuffed shirt, I swear I'm going to give him a swift kick in the shin with the pointed toe of this shoe. I bet he'll think twice...” he heard her say as he reached the open door.

Justin went still. He took two steps back, pivoted and headed for the bar.
He had to rethink his strategy. He ordered a Coke, not wanting anything to cloud his thinking. He took the drink out to the opposite balcony and leaned against the rail.

“Now what?” he muttered. Truth be told, he shouldn't be worried about a woman. He had more pressing things on his plate, like making sure his alert system was perfected and talking with Mr. Gray tonight. He sipped his drink and stared at the grounds below. A slow smile curved his mouth as an idea came to him. He was great at multitasking and wanted only a dance. There would be plenty of time to get that pitch in. Justin downed the remainder of his drink and went back inside.

He greeted and made small talk with several people, all while maneuvering closer to the woman. “Good evening, ladies.” She stood talking with two other women, and seeing her from a distance had not come close to capturing her beauty, especially her eyes. They were a lighter shade of brown and perfectly complemented her golden-brown skin. Soft laughter from one of the women made him realize he was staring like an awestruck teen. Justin quickly gathered himself and stuck out his hand to the first woman, who was still smiling. “I'm Justin Cartwright.”

“Kendra Martin. Nice to meet you, Justin.”

“I'm Cynthia Johnson,” the second woman said, extending her hand.

“Nice to meet you both.” He turned slightly to face the woman he had been studying all night. “And you are?”

BOOK: Tender Kisses
6.24Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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