After a devastating love affair broke her heart––and derailed her fast-track career––it’s taken Brie Grayson a while to recover. Now she’s back at a top New York City law firm, determined to rise above it all. And she’ll have to—especially when a major new client turns out to be the boy who made the seventh grade a living hell.
Luxury hotel magnate Maddox Monroe has clawed his way out of the ruins of his former life to build an empire. He knows what he wants and how to get it. But he couldn’t have anticipated reconnecting with the girl of his boyhood fantasies—all grown up and more alluring than ever.
But once Maddox breaks through Brie’s barriers to find the fiery woman hidden underneath, will lust lead to something lasting? Or will past heartache and fresh betrayals tear their future apart before it even has a chance to begin?Read an Excerpt
“An ideal beach read. High-octane erotic!” - Publishers Weekly
“A charming and sexy read!” – Cocktails & Books
“Plenty of humor and sexy sizzle.” – RT Book Reviews
“Brie Grayson, welcome,” Monroe said. “Pardon me for not coming downstairs to meet you, but I was on a call. I trust Oscar didn’t keep you waiting.”
Oscar, the manager, he meant. “Not at all. He was amazingly polite and efficient. If he wasn’t he wouldn’t work for you, would he?”
A smile spread over Monroe’s face. “Exactly right.” He gestured for her to follow him.
She fell into step behind him.
“I’ve asked my chef to prepare our meal,” he said. “We’ll wait in the living room while he gets things ready.”
“You mean we’ll be eating here?”
He tossed her a look, whose appeal wasn’t in the least diminished by his injury. “We’ll have more privacy this way. The restaurant here at the M Hotel is excellent, but I prefer not to discuss business in public when there’s a better option.”
Privacy and Monroe were two things she’d been hoping not to mix. She really ought to have insisted on meeting at her office.
Keeping her thoughts to herself, she followed him into the living room. The view was spectacular, the outside wall a panorama of glass that displayed Manhattan in its glory, all the way from the lush green rectangle of Central Park to the murky gray ribbon of the Hudson River.
She turned toward him. “Before we begin, I want to apologize.”
“You only just arrived. What could you possibly have done already?”
“Nothing. Well, nothing new. I just wanted to say that I’m sorry about the other day, about the tennis match and the accident with the ball.”
“Was it an accident?” he asked, a knowing expression in his dark brown eyes. “I got the distinct impression at the time that your serve landed exactly where you aimed.”
Unflinching, she looked back. “It did. Too bad your face got in the way.”
A brief smile moved over his lips. “Careful, Ms. Grayson, or I’ll be instructing you to sue yourself on my behalf.”
“Then it’s a good thing the law prevents me from doing so. Maybe one of the other partners could help?”
“Maybe. But we’ll have to table that for another day. Now, what can I get you to drink?” Monroe asked. “Wine or a cocktail perhaps?”
Though Brie didn’t let it show, she was secretly relieved that he didn’t seem to be holding a grudge. Then again, she knew he was up to something. Just what remained to be seen. “Nothing alcoholic, thank you,” she said. “I don’t drink at work.”
“Iced tea, then?” At her agreement, he nodded toward a waiter, whom she hadn’t noticed until that very moment.
The man vanished, walking down a hallway that she presumed led to the kitchen. Listening, she thought she heard the sound of something sizzling in a pan. Then it was quiet again.
“Sit,” Monroe told her, gesturing this time toward a sofa grouping upholstered in rich brown leather.
“Perhaps we could find a table? I’ve brought papers for you to sign.” Might as well take a stab at calling his bluff.
“We can do that later,” he said, “after we eat.”
Well, she’d given it a shot. She wasn’t taking bets, though, on walking out of here with an executed client agreement. Gritting her teeth, she sank down onto one of two armchairs in the room.
Monroe smiled as if he was fully aware she’d put as much space between them as possible, then took a seat on the sofa. He stretched a long arm across its back.
“So, Brie Grayson. What have you been up to since junior high school? Other than becoming a lawyer with a wicked tennis serve, that is?”
Maddox watched her, enjoying the slight look of discomposure that crept over her face at his question. He loved the fact that he could still get a rise out of her even now. Curious how so many years could pass, years full of separate experiences and events, emotions and expectations, and yet at the heart of it, they were still the same people they’d been as kids.
She, the quiet, composed brainiac who smelled like a fresh spring rain and looked as if there were entire worlds hidden behind her eyes. He, the arrogant, leader-of-the-pack prankster who would give his left nut if she even once looked at him with anything other than disdain.
Even now, she was all buttoned up in her neat lawyer suit, her blond hair combed into carefully controlled perfection. She wore just the right shade of lipstick on her mouth—blush pink—and exactly the right shoes—feminine yet sensible two-inch navy blue heels that were professional without being dowdy.
He wished he could peel her out of the jacket and unbutton her fine silk shirt so he could see if her bra was utilitarian cotton or decadent lace. Next, he’d take off her shoes and roll down her panty hose so he could run his hands along the slim bare curves of her thighs and calves and ankles. Then he’d tug her to him and pull her down to straddle his lap, pushing her skirt high while he kissed her deep and long and slow. Taking her mouth and caressing her body until she was trembling and wet, until she was begging him to sheath himself inside her soft, feminine heat.
But that would have to wait for later, he thought, giving himself a firm mental shake. All things in their own good time.
He supposed it would have been wiser if he’d behaved like the mature man he was when they’d met the other day. Instead, he’d shot off his mouth just like he had when he’d been a stupid moron kid. She hated his guts just as much as she had when they’d been in the seventh grade—and he had the black eye and bruised cheek to prove it. But he wasn’t a quitter; never had been, never would be.
She detested him, sure, but things didn’t have to stay that way. He’d find the means to push her buttons, only in a good way this time.
He studied her again, careful not to let any of his thoughts show. The question he’d asked her had been an honest one; he did want to know about her. Everything she’d done. Everyone she’d met. Where she planned to go in the future.
He knew she wasn’t married; he’d ferreted out that bit of information during his phone conversation with McNeal on Sunday. He also knew she lived in a small one-bedroom apartment, which was located in a safe, quiet neighborhood, and that before this past year, she’d been a lawyer for the DOJ in Washington, D.C.
Still, he wanted to hear the details from her.
Why she fascinated him he didn’t entirely understand. But he was a man who’d built an empire on gut instinct, and his instincts told him not to let her slip away for a second time. At least not until he had a chance to scratch the itch she still gave him, even after all these years.
Brie shrugged, her face unreadable. “What is there to tell? I’ve done the usual things. Gone to school, found a job, lived my life.”
“So you’re just an average young woman making her way in the big city.”
“Something like that.”
“What about a husband? Children?” he went on, even though he knew the answer.
“Boyfriend, then? What about that Collingsworth guy? Are you and he—”
“No!” she said, sharply enough that he knew he had nothing to trouble himself over in that regard.
“Anyone else? Live-in lover perhaps? Or do you prefer keeping your options open?”
“Whatever I prefer doing in my private life, is private, Mr. Monroe, and none of your concern. You have hired me to serve as your attorney and to represent your business interests. Anything more goes beyond the scope of our association. Assuming you really are serious about having Marshall McNeal Prescott represent you, that is?”
He drummed his fingers against the sofa back. “And why wouldn’t I be serious?”
“Well, if I am being completely candid—”
“Most definitely. I insist on honesty in all our dealings.”
She paused, studied him for an instant. “Then honestly, given your history, you’ve never before shown any interest in obtaining new counsel. That is in spite of numerous attempts by any number of well-respected firms over the years to acquire your business. Yet suddenly, out of the blue, you have decided that you want my firm to represent you.”
“I want you to represent me. Your firm doesn’t matter.”
“Maddox,” he said, smiling. “Come on, Brie. It’s no use pretending we’re strangers, however much you might wish we were.”
“But we are strangers.” She looked him square in the eyes. “We were anything but friends as children and we most definitely don’t know each other now as adults.”
“But all that is going to change, now that you’re my lawyer.”
“Assuming I agree to be your lawyer.”
He arched a brow. “But you already have. Or was McNeal mistaken when he told me you’ve accepted a partnership?”
“He shouldn’t have—”
“Of course he should. He works for me now too. From what I understand, you’re more than qualified for the step up—highly deserving, in fact.”
“I’ve been with Marshall McNeal Prescott less than a year.”
“Yes, but you’ve been a practicing attorney for eight years with experience in both the public and private sectors. You graduated from Harvard and Harvard Law at the top of your class, served as an editor of the Law Review, and landed a position at a prestigious New York law firm straight out of college.”
Her lips parted with surprise, but he continued before she could say anything. “You left corporate law to work for the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., for a few years before returning here to the city to resume your original career track,” he went on. “You’re considered one of Marshall McNeal Prescott’s best and brightest litigators and were already well on the way toward partnership. My . . . suggestion that you be offered partner did nothing more than move up the timetable. I’m sure you and they were already thinking along those lines well before I came along.”
“You had me investigated?” she said on a sudden gasp of understanding.
He shrugged, unapologetic. “Of course. I’m a businessman, Brie. I do my homework. You don’t really think I’d put the legal concerns of a company worth nearly a billion dollars in the hands of someone who doesn’t know what she’s doing?”
Her breasts rose and fell as she drew in several rapid breaths. “Why, you—”
“Don’t worry. I told my investigator to focus on the business side of things. He left out most of the personal stuff. You’re whistle clean when it comes to drugs, not even an occasional puff of a joint on the side.” He made a smoking motion with one hand.
“Of course not,” she shot back, her blue eyes ablaze.
“Still the incorruptible princess, aren’t you, Brie-Brie? But then I always liked that about you. You’ve got integrity.”
The kind of integrity a man wanted to corrupt for his own personal pleasure.
He thought again about tugging her onto his lap, spearing his fingers into her hair, and kissing her until neither one of them could think straight. But she’d already decked him once. He didn’t want her to have an excuse to give him a second black eye.
“Here are our drinks,” he said as the waiter reappeared. “I’m sure our lunch will be ready any minute.”
She accepted the iced tea, her hand tight on the glass.
For a second he wondered if she was going to toss it at him. Instead, she raised it to her lips and took a long drink.
Steadying her nerves?
He always had been able to get a rise out of her. He couldn’t wait to see how long it took him to bring the banked passion he sensed in her to the fore.
Brie set her drink down with a slight click, then looked him in the eye again. “You still haven’t told me why.”
Rather than answer, he took a long swallow of his own glass of iced tea. Despite his offer of wine or a cocktail, he didn’t drink alcohol. He’d been sober for over ten years now and he had every intention of remaining that way. He’d even refused the painkillers they’d offered him at the hospital for that reason.
“Good or not,” she continued, “there are lots of excellent attorneys in the city, including the ones at your old firm. Why pick me when we never got along and when I gave you what looks like a very painful black eye the first time we ran into each other in over twenty years?”
A slow grin spread over his mouth. “Oh, that’s easy. I want you in my bed. I thought we’d start with business first, then work our way up to the pleasure.”
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