NY Times Bestselling Author
When P.I. Ben Callahan agreed to take the job of watching over spoiled heiress Grace Montgomery, he figured it would be easy money. Then he discovered that gorgeous Grace had a reckless streak a mile wide and was a serious threat to his libido. Ben wasn’t worried about being able to keep Grace safe from outsiders. But who would protect her from Ben?
Grace Montgomery was finally free free to find out who she was and what she wanted. And who she wanted right now was her sexy new neighbor. She planned to explore her sensual side, to shed all her inhibitions and discover what it was to be a woman, Ben’s woman. Only, she hadn’t known that Ben had been paid for the privilege….
Emma Montgomery is a force to be reckoned with. Before he even realizes it Ben Callahan has taken on the assignment of watching over Emma’s granddaughter. From the moment he saw Grace’s photo he knew he was in deep trouble, even though he denies the attraction at the time.
Grace has stopped using her trust fund to live and has gone off on her own. She’s not talking to her grandmother like she used to and Emma is worried about her. On the other hand Grace is feeling much more independent and is pursuing her love of photography.
Ben moves into the apartment across the hall from her and there is a noticeable attraction from their first meeting. It gets even more interesting when they meet where Grace is taking photos for her project.
This is a favorite scene.
Grace stepped out of the dark subway station. The freedom she felt walking into the fresh air, camera in hand, the breeze warm on her arms, and the sun hot on her face, was liberating. She passed by the boarded-up building that once held a restaurant, waved to a bunch of neighborhood kids she saw on her daily trips to the park, and rounded the corner leading to the playground she loved.
As usual during lunch hour, the basketball courts were crowded with kids, and she paused in front of the wrought-iron gate. Clutching the cold metal in her hands, she peered through the open spaces and watched the games from the sidelines. The smack of the ball against the blacktop mingled with the low strains of male voices. With most of the players in white T-shirts, Grace was hard-pressed to tell them apart… until she caught sight of the guy in gray.
She couldn’t mistake the jet-black hair hitting his shoulders as he ran or the physique she’d memorized the day he’d moved in. But it was the distinctive sound of his voice over the dull roar of the other players that sealed her certainty. She didn’t know what Ben Callahan was doing down here, and she intended to find out. But not until she’d captured this moment.
She hadn’t seen him for a week and she had no intention of letting the opportunity to feast on his good looks and masculinity pass her by. She flipped off the lens cap and raised the camera to eye level. At the same moment, play on the court stopped, the guys hitting the benches to take a break— except for Ben and a lone player who remained by the hoop. Though Grace stood in the shade of the buildings’ shadows, Ben stood bracketed by sunlight.
Her week of deprivation was at an end and she paused to revel in the sight.
He wiped a hand over his forehead to remove the sweat and grime from the game— a typically masculine move, but there was nothing typical about Ben. His sexy mannerisms, his powerful stance, the muscles in his legs visible thanks to his shorts set him apart from the other men in the world. And Grace appreciated it all as she began to capture his movements with her camera.
His body language mimicked those around them. He spoke to the kids as if he knew their language, as if he were accepted. Yet she’d never seen him here before. Grace wondered who he was and why he’d shown up now. Did he know the neighborhood residents because he worked in the area, or did he have family down here?
But first… With the easy adjustment of her zoom lens, she zeroed in. With each click of the shutter, she became one with Ben, and as she seized his every nuance, every undercurrent, she began to feel. Her heart raced as if she’d run the court and her pulse pounded in time to the dribble of the ball smacking the ground.
As he gestured and moved, explaining something to the youth beside him, she couldn’t draw her gaze from the ripple of muscle in his arms and the strength in his calves and thighs. Thanks to the sun’s strong rays and his hard play, damp stains darkened his T-shirt. She snapped the shutter automatically, not missing a beat, but her body continued a rampage of its own. Her back grew damp and her shirt stuck to her skin while a fine sheen of perspiration dotted her face. She lowered the camera and inhaled deep, drawing an unsteady breath.
Grace had been searching for clues to what kind of woman lay inside the polite female created by her judge father and well-bred mother. Now, she knew seething sensuality lay dormant inside her, just waiting to be unleashed. And Ben was the man to take her on the next part of her journey of self-discovery.
Everything he made her feel was honest and real, so opposite to the artificial world she’d grown up in— a world where people hid their feelings, married for show, cared little for their children, and worst of all, repressed their sexuality— unless they were cheating on a spouse. Except for her brother Logan, who’d defied the family political tradition and had also married for love, the Montgomery world was a phony one.
The opposite of the real world Ben inhabited. She could only imagine the strength and beauty of the photos she’d just taken— photos for her personal album, not a stepping stone in her career.
Another glance at the court, and she saw Ben once more, hand on the kid’s shoulder, apparently explaining the finer points of the game. Not many men cared enough to work with the kids in this neighborhood, kids who needed guidance. Grace admired not just Ben’s physique but the obvious goodness he possessed inside.
She headed around the gate and came up behind him. “Hey there, neighbor.”
“Grace?” He turned toward her, surprise in his voice, disbelief in his gaze.
“The one and only.” She sprinted onto the court to join him.
He tossed the ball to the young boy. “Get to work on those jump shots. I’ll be with you in a second.” He pivoted back to her. “What are you doing here?”
Was that anger she heard in his tone? She raised an eyebrow in question. “Well, hello to you, too. And I could ask you the same thing. It just so happens I’m a regular around here. How about you?”
“What’s with the camera?” he asked without bothering to answer her question.
She lifted her prized piece of equipment before letting it fall back around her neck. “I’m working. What’s your excuse? Because if you don’t mind my saying so, it seems awfully coincidental that we’d both end up in the same neighborhood.”
He met her gaze, which was a good sign that he wasn’t hiding anything, but she didn’t know him well enough to read him… yet.
“Don’t get yourself worked up, Gracie.” His voice softened and she couldn’t help melting like ice cream on the hot sidewalk. “I was just concerned to find you hanging in a neighborhood like this.” His arm swept the air around him.
She figured that was as much of an apology as she would get from the man. “Well, I admit it’s not as fine as most, but the people here are real.” Considering concern was behind his attitude, she didn’t mind explaining. “And they deserve the same little joys in life the rest of us have.” She waved the camera. “That’s what these pictures are for, to help raise money on behalf of the kids in this neighborhood— and their mothers love them. Pictures of their kids are the least I can give back.” She silently cursed the insecurity she hadn’t meant to reveal.
He stepped forward. “And why is that?” His soft voice wrapped around her like a warm caress. “Is your background more privileged than most?”
“How’d you guess?” she asked, suddenly wary. Because they’d met once, and she’d never revealed her upbringing to her neighbor. Of course, her apartment decor reeked of wealth, but his tone held more than a hint of certainty that he knew her well.
He lifted her chin with his hand, holding her face up to daylight. Heat having nothing to do with the sun skittered across her skin. “That cultured voice is a dead giveaway. And besides, those sculpted cheekbones speak for themselves.”
So, he’d pegged her from day one. But to Ben, she didn’t want to be the spoiled rich girl, she wanted to be just Grace. And she believed she still had that chance.
She inhaled deep. The air held Ben’s raw scent, and if Grace thought she’d been swept away by the sight of him before, she was on fire now. “What makes you such a good judge of people?”
“In my line of work, being observant is second nature.”
She shot him a questioning look.
“Private investigator,” he explained.
His occupation surprised her, but she appreciated the insight. “Is that what you’re doing down here? Working on a case?”
She glanced over her shoulder, hoping the kid Ben had been coaching wasn’t the subject of some undercover investigation that would get him in trouble. Drugs, the illegal sale of fake merchandise— she saw too many kids in danger and hoped the money from CHANCES would help kids like these. Not only would it open the door to her career, but she’d ease the guilt she felt for having so much when others had so little.
“Now, Grace, are you avoiding the question about your background?” He not-so-subtly turned the subject back to her.
She grinned. Apparently, with their interest in each other running high, neither one was willing to give without receiving in return. “No, Mr. Private Investigator. Let’s just say I’m leveling the playing field. You answer my question, I’ll answer yours.”
He fingered the camera strap between his thumb and forefinger. “I didn’t know this was a game, but I’ll play. Since I’m new to the building, I asked the landlord which areas to avoid, and he mentioned this neighborhood. High crime, drug trafficking… kids in need.” He pointed to the game of basketball that had resumed behind them. “So, here I am.”
She’d found this neighborhood in much the same way, but she was a permanent resident. Ben was a temporary neighbor, which made his actions that much more generous and giving.
She wondered again what was behind his presence here. “Why, Ben, I’d never have suspected you had an altruistic streak.”
He laughed. “I don’t go around advertising it, but I grew up in a place like this. Whenever I go into a new neighborhood, I like to go back to my roots. Like you, I give back in return.”
Her chest constricted at the admission. So, not only was the man of her dreams sexy, but he had a heart.
“No welching. It’s your turn. Is your background more privileged than most? Is that why you feel the need to hit these areas without backup?”
She laughed. “I don’t think I need backup. Who’d be interested enough to bother with me?”
“Don’t underestimate your worth, Grace.”
She shivered, realizing he’d struck her one weakness with deadly accuracy. Though she hadn’t meant to imply she wasn’t worthy of interest, it was her greatest fear. That her worth lay only in her money and family name.
“I meant who’d give me a second look? I’m dressed in rags.” She pointed to her ripped jeans and paint-splattered T-shirt. “No makeup, no jewelry to attract attention.” She shrugged, hoping she’d covered any hint of insecurity she might have revealed.
“Just a fancy camera worth good money in a pawn shop, for starters. Then there’s those cheekbones I mentioned earlier.” His finger slipped down her face, whisper-soft but with enough electricity to light this neighborhood in a blackout.
“I can take care of myself.”
“I know you believe that, but…”
“I know that.” She grasped his finger in her hand. The desire to feel the rough glide of his skin over her aching breasts was overwhelming. Somehow, she found the ability to speak. “I appreciate the concern, but I really need to get going. I want to shoot a few pictures before I have to get back to work.”
He stepped backward and the distance gave her breathing room. “You owe me some answers, Gracie.”
She laughed, grateful to be off the hook for now. “That’s okay. I’m not going far.”
Before he could answer, she turned and headed for the playground. Little did Ben know, she wasn’t kidding.
He was the key to her sensual self-discovery, and she planned to get very close to him very soon.
Carly Phillips. Simply Sensual (Kindle Locations 279-335). CP Publishing.
Unfortunately for Grace, she manages to attract some very unwanted attention.
Intrigue, family interference, romance and sizzle will have you turning the pages to see what happens next.
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.