NY Times & USA Today Bestselling Author
Zoe Costas is a security specialist and a Costas through and through. Her eccentric, rather dubious family runs an Atlantic City spa that’s just this side of legit. So Zoe isn’t inclined to trust handsome, charming Ryan Baldwin when he shows up claiming to be related to Sam, the girl the Costas family is about to adopt. But Ryan is Sam’s uncle and one of the famously rich and snooty Boston Baldwins.
Ryan’s search for his sister has led him to news of her death, and to a niece he’s never met. But someone else has also tracked Sam down — someone who never wanted the child to be found. Ryan is determined to protect Sam and find out what really happened to his sister. And Zoe is just the woman to help him do it. Neither expects to lose their heart in the process.
If you read the first book ‘Under the Boardwalk’ you’ll remember that the Costas family has expedited the process of becoming foster parents to take in Sam. In this book they are getting close to the point of adoption and there’s going to be a major twist.
It seems Sam has an uncle, one who just found out his late sister had a daughter. Ryan wants to meet her and have her become part of the family. He arrives with Sam’s 14th birthday party in full swing, and the family believes Ryan to be Sam’s new social worker. Ryan not knowing what else to do, goes along with it. However, while Zoe is giving him a tour of the house and finds herself attracted to the man, she gets a call.
This is a favorite scene.
Thankfully Social Services had agreed to the foster placement and the past few months had been uneventful. Now if she could just get her mother to stall Sam’s birthday present until Ryan Baldwin left, she’d feel much better.
“I’m sorry. No more pushing. I promise. So, how about a tour of the house?” she asked with forced cheer, recalling that had been one of the first things the other social worker had requested.
He seemed to relax and even crack a smile. “Has anyone ever told you you’re just like your mother?”
She cocked her head to one side. “If you mean because I’m pushy, tend to ramble, and usually get what I want, then yeah, people do think my mother and I are alike.”
“I was thinking that you’re both like a tornado of sorts.” The corners of his eyes crinkled. “But I have to admit; you two can be somewhat refreshing.”
“That’s one way of putting it, and coming from someone more… How shall I put this delicately? Coming from someone more stuffy than I am, I think I’ll even consider it a compliment.”
He laughed at that, two dimples suddenly becoming evident. With his guard down and his smile genuine and unstrained, Zoe was struck again by how handsome he truly was. It was strange that she’d notice him at all since a “suit” was the last kind of guy she’d normally be attracted to, but what the heck. The rush of adrenaline proved she wasn’t dead, as her mother accused her of being.
“I’d like to take that tour now,” he said, changing the subject back to business.
“Come.” Zoe grabbed his hand and pulled him toward the house.
She kept things light as she pointed out the spa and how it was completely separate from the house. Entrances on opposite sides of the property meant nobody could get in or out of the house from the spa. She showed him all the safety precautions they’d taken and couldn’t help but show her pride in the business her family had made a success in such a short time.
He asked questions, and she answered. He even laughed a time or two at her jokes. And all the while, she couldn’t shake the heat his touch generated or the sense that his big hand had imprinted itself on her smaller one. She hadn’t liked the other social worker’s unexpected visits, but she could get used to this guy hanging around.
They ended their tour in the kitchen, and Zoe hopped up to sit on the counter. “So what do you think?”
He nodded in what seemed reluctant approval. “It’s a different setup, but you’ve definitely made sure the family is separate and protected from spa guests. The cowbell was a unique touch.”
She rolled her eyes. It figured. Zoe had pointed out their high-tech protection, the video cameras and the alarm system and he’d focused on Elena’s personal method of ensuring nobody entered the private part of the house unnoticed— a cowbell hanging over the door, virtually impossible to move or disable. She’d used the same technique on Zoe and Ari when they were younger to make sure neither sneaked out of the house or came in too late.
Zoe shrugged. “What can I say? Mom and Dad have got their own ways. But they did their job as parents and did it well.”
He strode closer. So close she smelled his rich, musky scent and a warm, tingling feeling arose in her chest.
“Your family is certainly different,” he said.
“I take it you’re from a more conservative bunch?” She laughed and yanked on his tie playfully before remembering who he was. The social worker who would determine Sam’s fate.
She started to pull back but he touched her hand, stilling her movement, and his eyes locked on hers. The air around them grew heavy, pulsing with anticipatory awareness. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d been this drawn to a man on first meeting.
Zoe had a healthy sex life but not a love life. That description she reserved for soul mates, people like her parents, or Quinn and Ari. In fact, she reserved the description for many people, really, with the exception of herself. She didn’t know how people made a lifetime commitment and kept it. She hadn’t even been able to accomplish that with a job.
She understood these things about herself, and though she accepted them, she was taking steps to lead a more adult life. Her sister’s marriage had made her realize it was time to make changes. Zoe supposed it was a good thing that love had never happened for her. One less decision she’d had to make and stick with, she thought wryly.
And since she was approaching her thirtieth birthday in a matter of days, she had long since stopped expecting love at all. Besides, she enjoyed her freedom too much to give it all up for one man.
She glanced at the good-looking man before her and realized that her sex life had been status quo for so long even this overwhelming chemistry came as a surprise. As a woman who liked excitement, she welcomed the rush of adrenaline in her veins, and she had no trouble acting on their mutual attraction.
As long as she didn’t jeopardize Sam’s future in the process. Thankfully, the ringing of the telephone interrupted their prolonged silence, and she reached for the phone. “Hello.”
“Elena?” a voice asked.
“No, this is Zoe.”
She gave Ryan an apologetic look and held up one finger, asking him to wait a minute while she took the call.
“It’s Katherine Farr, Samantha’s social worker,” the voice on the other end of the phone said. “I just wanted to apologize that neither myself nor my colleague could make it to Sam’s party today.”
Zoe narrowed her gaze. “But…”
“I know you’re disappointed and so is Samantha, but it can’t be helped. My mother needs me for another few weeks, and my colleagues will be tied up with urgent cases. I hope you understand.”
“Sort of.” Zoe shot a covert glance at Ryan beneath her lashes.
“It’s a compliment and a testament to your family’s skills with Samantha. She’s come such a long way. I know she’s safe and in good hands, so I have no problem with the final evaluation being postponed for a few weeks until I’m back.”
“Okay.” She didn’t want to give anything away to her companion who stood with is back to her, staring at the photographs on the refrigerator.
“My colleagues will need to focus on the more problematic cases in order to cover my absence,” Katherine explained.
“I understand. And I hope things work out for your mother.”
“Thank you, dear. You’ll relay the message to your parents?”
“I certainly will.” Zoe hung up the phone and focused on the stranger in her kitchen.
A man who’d stirred something inside her that had been dormant for too long. A man who obviously had an agenda.
She walked up behind him and tugged on his arm.
“Is this you and Sam?” He gestured to the picture of Zoe, Ari and Sam with orange spray-on tans on their faces and arms, smiling for the camera.
“We were recreating an old childhood memory,” she said laughing before she caught herself. “Never mind that.”
He narrowed his gaze. “What is it? What’s wrong?”
“You’re wrong, Ryan Baldwin, if that’s even your name. Since I just spoke to Sam’s social worker on the phone and I know she couldn’t get someone to replace her, I’d like to know just who the hell you are. And what the hell you’re doing snooping around my family and my house.”
Carly Phillips. Summer of Love (Kindle Locations 266-325). CP Publishing.
A fun yet intense tale, as Sam and Zoe get to know Ryan. His biggest fear is that his parents would make the same mistakes they did with his sister and drive Zoe away as well.
Plenty of surprises, fun, laughter, tears, drama and suspense. I hope Carly has something in mind for all those Costas cousins.
5 Contented Purrs for Carly!
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Carly Phillips is the N.Y. Times and USA Today Bestselling Author of over 50 sexy contemporary romance novels featuring hot men, strong women and the emotionally compelling stories her readers have come to expect and love.
Carly’s career spans over a decade and a half with various New York publishing houses, and she is now an Indie author who runs her own business and loves every exciting minute of her publishing journey. Carly is happily married to her college sweetheart, the mother of two nearly adult daughters and three crazy dogs (two wheaten terriers and one mutant Havanese) who star on her Facebook Fan Page and website. Carly loves social media and is always around to interact with her readers.