NY Times & USA Today Bestselling Author
Jared is on leave until New Year’s and instead of spending the time skiing with his brother, he would be spending alone in Coronado. He’s decided to use the time to actually decorate his apartment. That in mind he knocks on his neighbor Cassie’s door, they’ve agreed to be just friends. Unfortunately over time Cassie has decided she’d like more and with that in her mind she joins him on a trip to Ikea.
Cassie’s friend Mel wants to go out that same evening and Jared invites a couple of his teammates to join them. Cassie has dressed to get Jared’s attention and boy does she succeed. He just hasn’t quite shown her that yet.
This is a favorite scene.
Cassie shook her head and smiled into her drink. Mel wouldn’t have any problem asking a man for what she wanted.
“Your friend is cute,” Jared’s friend Miles said. Dumbrowski, as Jared called him, leaned in a bit closer. “Is she single?”
Mel was always single. Happily so. “Yep,” Cassie said carefully.
Miles bit his lip and looked past Cassie’s shoulder. She knew that look. Not that it was ever pointed at her, not by men like Miles and Jared. “Is she a long-walks-on-the-beach kind of girl?”
Cassie laughed. That wasn’t what she’d expected him to ask. “She likes to have fun, if that’s what you’re looking for. Nothing serious, though. She’s got a lot on the go.”
“Shame.” He gave her a hangdog face, and she patted him on the chest.
His phone beeped and as he read it, he perked up again.
“You’ve got another option?” Cassie teased, and he laughed.
“Excuse me, Cassie. Nice to meet you. Be gentle on Jared, ya hear?” And with that mystifying comment, he was up and off, thumping his friends on the shoulders as he made his exit.
Jared bumped shoulders with her as he sat down— the man took up a ridiculous amount of space. Taller than his friends and broader too, with legs that stretched on forever under the table and bounced restlessly next to her, he was a mountain among men. A mountain she wanted to climb.
“Beer?” Jared asked, pointing at the pitcher he’d brought back from the bar.
She nodded, more glumly than she intended.
“Dumbrowski left, huh? It looked like you guys were hitting it off.” His words came out quickly— a tight little bundle of a question.
“He was asking about Mel. And then he got a booty call, I think.”
Jared pulled his lips together in a small frown. His perfectly sculpted lips that matched his carved-from-granite jaw, which even at this hour didn’t have much stubble on it. She knew from ogling him at the pool that he didn’t have much body hair, either— just a blond treasure trail that made her want to rip open his board shorts and fall to her knees.
“Anyway, he’s too young for me,” she said blithely, blindly casting about for any conversation change that didn’t have her thinking about giving Jared a blow job.
He laughed. “That’s thin, but yeah, he’s not the guy for you.”
She cleared her throat. “Well, let me think it’s because he doesn’t want to date an older woman and not because I don’t stack up, okay?”
“You stack up just fine, Cassie,” Jared said quietly, dropping his gaze. “And your age is… Jesus, no man worth his salt cares about shit like that.”
And yet you don’t want to see me as a sexual being, she wanted to point out. Wanted to be brave. But a brutal divorce and her rebound guy dumping her by text message had just about stripped her of all courage. Temporarily. She’d get it back. She was a fighter. Just not tonight.
She sipped her beer just to have something to do with her hands and mouth that didn’t involve Jared. When her glass and the pitcher were both empty, she excused herself and went to the bar, needing a break from being so close to Jared and not being able to touch him.
The man was way too touchable. She wanted to rub her fingertips through the blond hair on his forearms and stroke her palms over his biceps. His biceps had biceps, and she wanted to stroke those, too.
She’d just ordered a lime and soda when she heard an unfortunately familiar voice behind her. “On the prowl tonight, Cassandra?”
When Jared asked her that, it felt hot. Intimate and daring. When Mitch said the same words, she felt like she needed a shower. She spun slowly, not missing the slow, gross gaze he dropped to her toes and dragged back up. He lingered on her breasts, but he didn’t look pleased with any of it.
“What are you doing in Coronado, Mitch?” She loved the little community, but he preferred living and partying in San Diego. He was all slick suit and smooth lines, and that didn’t fly with the girls here— they were more interested in the strong, silent type in black t-shirts and fitted cargo pants. A look Cassie was quite partial to now herself, she thought as she let her gaze slip past her ex-husband and settle on Jared. As if he could feel her attention landing on him, he looked up and without missing a beat he was out of his chair and heading her way.
“I’m on a date,” her ex said blandly. Cassie looked around, and her doubt must have been obvious, because he carried on. “Cara is in the ladies’ room.”
“Well, have fun,” Cassie said, lifting her glass as if to say, got my drink, need to go. He didn’t take the hint and stayed right in her path.
“That dress is a bit desperate, don’t you think? It’s not really husband bait, is it? It might have worked a few years ago, but you’ve put on some pounds since then.”
“Wow, that’s random and mean.” She awkwardly crossed her arms. Her glass was cold against her bare arm, and she desperately wanted her jean jacket for more reasons than warmth.
“I’m just trying to help you out. Slutty isn’t sexy.”
“You got that backwards, asshole,” Jared said, stopping right behind Mitch. Right behind. “Sexy isn’t slutty. It’s just sexy and, in this case, it’s none of your business. Now back the fuck away from the lady.”
Mitch gave her a slow blink, the look she’d dubbed lizard stare during their divorce proceedings. She wanted to be immune to it now. She wasn’t. “She’s my wife. Back off, jarhead,” he tossed back over his shoulder.
Jared laughed, and it wasn’t a mean laugh. Cassie bit back a grin as he stepped back, giving Mitch room to turn around before stepping right back into his personal space. His smile was knowing and totally awesome. “Actually, she’s Cassie. She’s nobody’s wife, because the loser she was married to wasn’t smart enough to know just how awesome his wife was when he had her. So if that’s you, I’m sorry, bud. And I’m guessing it is, because only a moron who’s never served in uniform would call someone a jarhead. You gotta be a Marine to use that term, and only to another Marine. You fail on both points, but try harder next time.”
Mitch shifted his way awkwardly around Jared’s solid bulk. Her savior stood there, grinning the whole time.
“That was a lot of words for you,” she said under her breath when they were finally alone— or as alone as they could be in a crowded brewpub.
“There was a lot that needed to be said.” He wrapped his arm around her shoulders and guided her back to the table.
As soon as she set down her glass, she pulled on her jacket. Jared gave her a surprised look. “Ready to go?”
She shook her head, then nodded. “Yes, maybe.” She craned her head, looking for Mel. She’d drifted a few tables down and looked well-occupied. “I should tell her…” Cassie said absently. She pulled out her phone only to discover a text from none other than Mel. Think I’ve found a winner— for the night. Talk to you tomorrow.
Well, that made the decision easy. “Take me home, Jared.”
It wasn’t quite how she wanted to say those words tonight, but it was better than nothing.
Zoe York. Fall Hard (Kindle Locations 213-270). http://www.zoeyork.com.
They decide to see where this might go after debating the whole keeping the friendship thing.
I loved the way this plays out, with some ups and downs and it’s fun, flirty, and sexy!
I look forward to reading more of this series.
5 Contented Purrs for Zoe!
Click the Cover for Buy Links and More!
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Zoe York is a busy working mom of two young boys, wife to a very understanding soldier, and creator of modern, sexy, small town contemporary romances. Her debut novel, What Once Was Perfect, started the popular Wardham series, and her first military romance, Fall Out, was released as part of the international bestselling SEALs of Summer super bundle.
She lives in London, Ontario and is currently chugging Americanos, wiping sticky fingers, and dreaming of heroes in and out of uniform.