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TALL, HARD AND TROUBLE
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* * *
No Night Without You
What if a man wants to savor one of his employees after hours—and she’s never even given him the time of day?
What if he’s honorable? And he sees her attacked?
Tate Ryder chucks his ethics in a heartbeat.
But Anna Stevens can’t let Tate protect her. He’s sweet. He’s damn delicious. But he could get hurt. And she knows if shows him how deeply she cares for him, he won’t back off.
Good for her that Tate won’t take no for an answer.
Good for him that Anna has hungered for him for years.
Too bad no one can protect her from the secret that’s stalked her all her life.
* * *
No Night Too Long
What if a man can’t forget one special woman who left him months ago without a word?
What if she suddenly appears one morning in Venice at the same meeting with the same agenda?
And she apologizes. Explains.
Coco Dalton isn’t just a photographer. She’s much more—and because of a job gone wrong, she’s in trouble. Desperate trouble.
Grant Warwick is stunned.
Can he help her?
He has to—or she’ll lose her life and he’ll lose his reason to live.
Tall, Hard and Trouble, Copyright 2015. Cerise DeLand All rights reserved. Excerpt from No Night Without You.
Tate Ryder tore his eyes away from the vision of elegant Anna Stevens as she strode toward him onto the veranda of his Houston penthouse. She fished in the pocket of her black satin trousers and brought out her cell phone. With a frown on her face, she answered a call.
So, yeah. She wasn’t looking for him. She didn’t want to chat. Break down the walls between him and her. She never did.
He bit the inside of his cheek and reminded himself once more of the three rules he never broke. Don’t borrow trouble. Don’t start anything you can’t finish. And most important of all, don’t romance the staff.
Leaning back on the railing, he gazed through the glass walls of his condo and surveyed the party raging inside. He congratulated himself he’d never approached Anna as anything other than the CEO of Ryder Resorts and Spas. God knew, every time he got within twenty feet of his director of oriental meditation services, he needed to chill. Even now from the corner of his eye, he could feel her seep into his pores. Hear her sandpaper contralto that rubbed his body into a hot rash of desire.
Like her voice is the only asset that makes me pant. How about those long legs in those flowing slacks? The pert breasts poking up in that ruffled silk blouse. The grace of her in stilettos. The full-throated laughter that usually marked her personality. That wasn’t apparent tonight, but what the hell. The whole package made him ache.
Don’t do the staff.
For the past two years, he’d been such a good CEO and followed that rule with her. And it took more than an ounce of willpower every damn day to keep his eyes polite and sweaty palms to himself.
Sure, he praised himself for his dedication to being an ethical boss, but damn, if he didn’t still want her. Good thing she hadn’t ever indicated any interest in him.
Like that matters. Her rich beauty burned his brain. Worse, his cock got locked and loaded every time he looked at her.
He downed a swig of his champagne and cursed his dilemma.
She was nothing like the women who used to attract him. Lithe, delicate, Anna sported a cloud of rich rosewood hair, sprinkles of freckles on her nose, flawless porcelain skin and the biggest set of hazel eyes he’d ever seen. The yoga and Pilates director at the Texas Gulf Coast spa he owned with his brother Cord and sister-in-law Sienna, Anna moved like a sea breeze. She had firm breasts that stood up without benefit of a bra, her huge flat nipples outlined in the ridiculously thin leotards she wore to work. But what really worked him over were her legs. Long as a gazelle’s, they were beautifully cut from years of working-out. The hollow of her inner thigh was a curve he longed to bury his face in. Better yet, her thighs were supple muscular treats that deserved to be grasped and opened often by a man who knew how to lavish kisses on her and make her purr.
He licked his lower lip, wondering for the thousandth time what she tasted like. He shifted, his cock rising to the fantasy that never left him.
He swallowed back his frustration. He was the host here in his condo, he should act like it. Mix. Mingle. Try to summon some interest in any one of the women in attendance tonight who neither worked for him nor wanted anything from him except maybe a great time in bed.
He downed his drink. Like he’d even been able to get interested in any woman except Anna for the past year. He had one night stands. Correction. More like, one hour stands. For all the exercise his cock was getting lately, he might as well become a monk. “Time to think about getting laid with someone you can have.”
“Talking to yourself these days?” His older brother Cord clamped a hand on his shoulder. Mona Travis, their friend and owner of another chain of spas in the U.S., stood beside him.
Tate shot them both a grim look. “What I do best.”
Cord chuckled. “Only about one subject.”
Mona arched a long thin brow. “Are you drooling over Anna again?”
Tate scoffed. “Should I wear a billboard?”
“Ever since the day you hired her away from me,” Mona taunted Tate, “you’ve had a fever for the lady.”
“Does not compute, you guys.” Tate warned. “The lady is not interested.”
“I do wonder why.” Cord cast an eye at Tate’s auburn hair. “You are a catch, man. Rich, good looking.”
“Says you. But I’m resigned. She’s never given me a second look and my poor damaged ego can’t bear to ask her why. Plus, I am not going to break our rule.” Cord had spoken to Tate frequently lately, recognizing Tate’s desire for Anna was a temptation. But Tate had never broken a trust with his brother—and didn’t intend to. Not for a woman who couldn’t care less for him.
Cord nodded. “Good thinking. Me? I’m just saying good night. I’ve greeted everyone. So we are officially in good shape for the opening of the Texas spa. But I’ve got to home. Sienna needs me.”
Tate smiled. “Sure. Do it. Those twins are demanding little guys.”
“Sienna’s still exhausted from their birth.”
“I’ve got control here. I’ll show all these folks the door soon anyway. I need my beauty sleep to get an early start in the morning. The boat’s ready, stocked with food and supplies.”
“Mexico?” Mona asked.
“Yep,” Tate said. “They screwed up the plumbing on the first foundation and have to pour a new one.”
“And they’re late,” Cord added with a scowl.
“What else is new?” Mona commiserated, then leaned forward to kiss Tate’s cheek. “I’m leaving too, honey. Early day tomorrow with one of my importers from Monterrey.”
“Take it easy, Mona.” Tate gave her a hug. The older woman had become a good friend over the past few years as well as a business associate. As she walked toward the door, he took stock of the people in his living room. The builders, the architects and suppliers for the Texas Gulf Coast property mixed with the resort spa’s staff, laughing and joking, celebrating the beginning of construction of their Mexican spa and resort.
He glanced at his brother. “Go home to your wife and babies.”
“Give ‘em hell down there, Tate. That new foundation should’ve been finished last month.”
“I won’t pay the next installment until it’s done. No worries, Cord. Good night.” He slapped his brother on the back.
As Cord made his way through the throng toward the front door, Tate saw that crowd was thinning, many drifting toward the door. He spied Anna at the far end of the veranda. Alone. Leaning away from him so he couldn’t overhear her conversation.
Some discussion that was to put that terrified look on her face.
What the hell?
She had no family. He’d learned that much about her during the past two years. Friends. Sure, she had loads of girl friends. He saw them come for her by the carload often to pick her up after work or dart in to the spa to meet her for lunch. Men were another story. She didn’t date. Or no men he’d ever heard of. None he’d ever seen her bring to their corporate dinners or parties. He’d wondered at one point if she preferred women, but his sister-in-law Sienna had soon cleared up that misperception.
“Anna is saving herself for Mr. Right.”
That told him four things that alternately thrilled him and destroyed him. She liked men. Wanted one. One right man. But clearly, he wasn’t a candidate.
He examined her as she argued with whoever was on the other end of that conversation. Was that a man?
Curiosity and jealousy drove him forward. If it was a guy who put that expression on her face, Tate would crush the asshole.
Tate halted in front of her and lifted his chin toward the phone, a question forming on his lips.
She watched him approach, her eyes growing rounder, starker with fear that made Tate narrow his eyes at her.
She put a hand up to ward him off.
He shook his head at her.
“No,” she ordered the person on the other end, “do not do that.”
Tate could hear the person reply, something dark, angry and male.
She fumed. “I told you no. Do not call me again.” She stared up at Tate as she ended the call and dropped her cell in her trouser pocket.
He caught her wrist. “What’s wrong, Anna?”
“Nothing.” She stepped to one side. “Let go.”
“No.” He put two hands to her upper arms. Something he’d never done. But he was jarred by how strong, how honed her triceps were. And the tension rippling there froze him. “Do you always tremble for no reason?”
She jerked out of his hold. “This is none of your business.”
He stepped forward and contrary to that rule about borrowing trouble, he knew he had to do something about hers. “This does concern me. You’re scared. Why?”
“Forget it, Tate.” She yanked away from him. “I’ve got to go.”
Once more, she did what she’d done so well for two years. She’d been impersonal with him. Professional. Putting him in his place.
He fumed silently as she marched toward the hall closet where she collected her shawl and flung it over her arm. On her way, she hugged Mona who was saying her own good–byes to a builder. Then Anna opened the front door and let herself out.
He’d never seen her afraid. Never seen her angry. She was so even-tempered, happy, throwing back her mane of rich chocolate hair to laugh at most of life. That had been the first thing that struck him about her. Her enjoyment of little things, all things small and joyful. He’d never known a woman like that.
And he liked women. Loved to be with them. Especially in bed. But as years went on, he found fewer and fewer who attracted him. Those he did take to bed were certainly beautiful. Most were spoiled or wanted to be. They were self-impressed. Self-gratifying. Eager to say they’d been laid by Super Bowl football legend, Tate Ryder. But Anna was nothing like any of those women.
And it gutted him that she couldn’t give a rat’s ass if he ever looked at her. Wanted her. Craved her.
But damn if he was going to let some man frighten her.
He strode over to his caterer and instructed him to go around and signal that the party was over.
The host was leaving and determined to break one of his own rules.
With one of the staff.
AUTHOR BIO :
An author acclaimed for her eloquence and scintillating tales of romance and suspense, Cerise DeLand writes historical and contemporary novels with spice and charm. Visit http://www.cerisedeland.com
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