Title: Thrill Me by Susan Mallery
Fool’s Gold Series Book 18
Publisher: HQN Books
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 368 pages
Meet the Mitchell brothers of Fool’s Gold, California—five gorgeous men who’ve left a trail of broken hearts in their wake…
Maya Farlow learned the hard way to depend only on herself, so when she fell too deeply for the bad-boy charms of Del Mitchell, she did the only thing she could—she ran. Stunned, Del left Fool’s Gold to make his name and fortune in extreme sports.
Now ten years later, Maya’s been hired to promote her hometown’s new slogan, The Destination for Romance. The celebrity spokesman is none other than Del, the man she dumped but never forgot. Awkward!
Although Del’s not the type to hold a grudge, he’s determined to avoid falling a second time for the woman who broke his heart. He’s a daredevil, not an idiot. Trouble is, in all his adventures, he never found a rush as exhilarating as Maya’s kiss. Maybe risking his heart will prove to be the biggest thrill of all…
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In the past ten years Maya had changed, the way women did when they grew up. Like the car, she was sleek, with great lines and plenty of power. The analogy made him chuckle. He doubted she would see the compliment.
She wore jeans and boots. A simple loose T-shirt had been tucked into her jeans. She slung a tote bag over her shoulder as she walked toward him. She looked confident and sexy. A nearly unbeatable combination.
For a second, as he watched her, he remembered what it had been like before. When Maya hadn’t been quite so in charge. When she’d stared at him wide-eyed, her mouth trembling right before he’d kissed her.
Their first meeting had been a lightning strike—at least for him. He’d seen her and wanted her. Later, when he’d gotten to know her, he’d found himself as attracted to every part of her. Hearing her laugh had made his day brighter. He’d fallen hard, and for that entire summer, he’d known she was the one.
When she’d accepted his proposal, he’d expected they would spend the rest of their lives together. He’d imagined kids and a yard and everything that went with happily ever after. When she’d dumped him…
“Hey,” she said as she approached.
He wrenched his mind from the past and focused on the present. Maya stopped at the porch stairs and held out her tablet.
“I brought over a copy of that video Mayor Marsha mentioned. I thought it would give you an idea of how I work.”
The video she’d claimed to know nothing about? Curious, he thought as he stood. Why had she pretended to be confused and why the change of heart? He thought about asking, then decided it was probably a chick thing and he was better off not knowing.
“Let’s take a look,” he said, and headed inside.
The cabin was simply furnished with an open floor plan. The kitchen and living room were up front with a half wall dividing the sleeping area from the rest of the cabin. The only separate area was the small three-quarter bath.
Del walked to the square dining table by the window and sat down. Maya handed him the tablet, but instead of sitting next to him, she hovered just behind his right shoulder.
“Just push the button,” she told him.
“Nervous?” he asked without turning to look at her.
“A little. It’s my work.”
Which implied it had significance to her. He got that but, “It’s not like my opinion is going to make a difference.”
“You’re the subject. Of course I care what you think.”
Good to know, he thought as he glanced at the screen.
The frozen picture showed him just after he’d jumped from an airplane. He pushed Play and the piece started.
It was about two or three minutes long with Maya providing the voice-over. The footage was all stock stuff, easily available on the internet. There were clips from other interviews he’d done while he’d still been involved in the sport and later, when he’d transitioned to entrepreneur.
When the video ended, he turned to look at her. “This wasn’t for your TV show.”
She gave him a nervous smile. “No. You were famous, but not that famous.” One shoulder rose and fell. “Unless we were talking about your love life. Then you made the show.”
“At the end,” he said absently, thinking that his relationship with Hyacinth—a world champion figure skater—had captured the media’s attention, if only on the periphery.
“I did some freelance work,” she added. “Pieces like this that could be used on local morning shows.”
He turned back to the tablet and tapped the screen to watch it again. This time he turned off the sound and studied the pictures. She’d taken ordinary shots and woven them together into something greater than the individual clips.
She was a good editor—better than good. He’d taken some video himself and tried to edit it, and the results had been dismal.
“Nice,” he said, pointing at the screen. “I like what you did here. You cropped the shot differently. Or something.”
She pulled up a chair and settled next to him. “You’re right. The action was great, but you weren’t at the center of the frame. I moved you as best I could. The line of sight is better, too.”
She kept talking and motioning to the action playing on the tablet, but he wasn’t paying attention. Not anymore. Not when he could inhale the scent of what he guessed was her shampoo, or maybe her lotion. Maya had never been one to wear perfume. Although he guessed that could be different now.
She’d changed just enough to be intriguing, he thought. The line of her jaw was tighter. Her walk a bit more determined. He didn’t know what she’d been through over the past ten years, but whatever it was had honed her.
She probably saw differences in him, too, but he found those less interesting. He knew what had happened to him. None of it was especially compelling.
He turned and looked into her green eyes. Ten years ago he would have sworn that he would never forgive her for what she’d said. For how she’d rejected him. For lying. Now he searched for residual anger or resentment and there wasn’t any. They’d both been gone too long for any of that to matter.
She was a beautiful woman. Under other circumstances, he might have been tempted. But while he could forgive and move on, he wasn’t going to give her a second chance. Not when he knew she hadn’t told him the truth. She had said that she loved him and wanted to marry him, but it had all been a lie. Still, they were going to work together. It made sense to be friends.
“Want to have dinner?” he asked.
She blinked. “There’s a shift in topic. Now?”
“Sure. We can go to the store and grab a couple of steaks. Barbecue them here. There’s a communal grill by the lake. You in?”
She gave him a slow, sexy smile that hit him like a fist to the gut.
They rose and walked toward the front door.
“Wait,” she said, and ran back for her tablet, then tucked it in her tote. “I can’t let my technology out of my sight.”
He nodded, because it was still too difficult to breathe, let alone speak.
He knew what that fist to the gut meant and he planned on completely ignoring the message. He was willing to forget the past, to work with Maya and even to be her friend. But he was never going to allow himself to be tempted by her. Not now, not ever.
Been there, done that and bought the T-shirt. He was a guy who looked forward. To something new. And that didn’t include her. Once his mind was made up, Del refused to be swayed. There was no way he was going to let Maya get to him.
New York Times bestselling author Susan Mallery has won the hearts of millions of readers around the world with books described as “immensely entertaining, intensely emotional” (RT Book Reviews), “hilarious” (Fort Worth Star-Telegram), and “heartwarming” (Publishers Weekly). One major retailer recently described her as “the queen of romantic fiction.” While she deeply appreciates the accolades of critics and booksellers, Mallery is even more honored by the enthusiasm of her readers and the word-of-mouth that catapults her toward the top of the bestsellers lists time and again.
Mallery lives in not-so-sunny Seattle with her husband and a toy poodle who makes her laugh every day and who’s not even a little bit impressed by her growing fame.
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* Susan Mallery Pen
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