Title: A Better Man by Candis Terry
Sunshine Creek Vineyard Series Book One
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 368 pages
Meet the Kincade brothers: they’ll do what it takes to protect their legacy—but what happens when love gets in the way?
Hockey star Jordan Kincade wasted no time ditching Sunshine Valley and everyone who mattered for a career in the NHL—a truth Jordan confronts when his parents’ deaths bring him home. Now he’s back to make amends, which begins with keeping his younger sister from flunking out of school. It’s just his luck that the one person who can help is the girl whose heart he broke years ago.
Lucy Diamond has racked up a number of monumental mistakes in her life, the first involving a certain blue-eyed charmer. She has no intention of falling for Jordan Kincade again, but when he shows up asking her to help one of her students, Lucy just can’t say no. Worse, the longer he’s back, the more she sees how much he’s changed. And so when a blistering kiss turns to more, she can’t help but wonder if her heart will be crushed again . . . or if she’ll discover true love with a better man.
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Today, she was a different person. Stronger because of the things she’d lived through. Smarter because she’d found a way to survive and come out the other side in a happy place. She knew exactly where she belonged, and that was teaching and helping students like Nicki. Which was why, right now, she was going to pull on her big girl panties and face the boy who had disappointed her head on.
Lucy managed to pull herself together as Jordan removed his sunglasses and slid them to the top of his head. His smile lifted a masculine pair of lips that somehow managed to look cruel and sexy at the same time.
The boy had turned into a man times ten.
Tall and broad shouldered, his chest looked a mile wide. Judging by the smooth ripples beneath his snug shirt he was packing muscle, not pounds. Jeans, worn and frayed at the stress points, accented his long muscular legs and trim waist. His longish nearly black hair gleamed beneath the overhead lights. And his sharp blue eyes focused intently on her.
It was all she could do to keep her heart at a normal pace and her legs solidly beneath her. If ever a man could be described as delicious, Jordan Kincade would be a menu’s specialty of the day.
Too bad he was such a jerk.
“Ms. Diamond?” He came forward and stretched out his very large hand. “Jordan Kincade.”
And clearly he didn’t remember her.
Lucy smiled as a funny little tickle moved through her chest. Maybe this was going to be fun after all. Rarely was she ever given the upper hand or the opportunity to have even the slightest edge.
When he moved closer his warm palm engulfed hers and her triumph died with a sizzle.
Close up she got a better look. She inhaled his sexy scent of worn leather and warm man. Every square inch of her female DNA perked up like it was party time. She hated to disappoint the little darlings but today was all about helping someone else.
“Please.” She kept the handshake brief and formal before she disengaged and motioned toward the chair in front of her desk. “Have a seat.”
He glanced at the standard school chair with a you’ve got to be kidding me lift of his brows. When he sat down, the orange plastic chair creaked and seemed ridiculously small beneath the scope of his height and muscles.
Lucy took her own seat and noticed that the difference in chairs made her tower over him and seemingly give her another advantage. But when he leaned back and crossed an ankle over a knee, he appeared completely comfortable.
So much for one-upmanship.
“I apologize if I seemed taken aback just now.” She opened the folder and pulled out Nicole’s progress report as well as several exams and the few assignments Nicole had actually turned in. Late, of course, but complete nonetheless. “I expected your brother Ryan.”
“He had business at the vineyard and sends his regrets.”
She couldn’t help notice how very deep and smooth his voice had become. Like hot buttered rum on a cold winter night. He had the kind of voice a woman could imagine whispering sweet nothings in her ear while he caressed her in places that tingled beneath his touch.
“I understand.” Snapping out of the fantasy, she imagined the enormous scope of duties Ryan Kincade must need to tend to after the death of their parents. Her heart sank a little further for the family. Especially for Nicole, who was so young and really needed the love and guidance of her mom and dad. “I hope you’ll accept my condolences. And I sincerely apologize for having you come down at this sorrowful time to deal with what might seem insignificant but—”
“Anything regarding my sister is important, Ms. Diamond. Now more than ever.” His brows dipped in a no nonsense fashion. “So don’t judge me when you don’t even know me.”
Oh, she knew him.
Knew he was the type who’d make a promise then shatter it without ever looking back.
But that was then, and this was now.
“My apologies, Mr. Kincade. That was certainly not my intent.”
His piercing eyes perused her face for a long, uncomfortable moment and she had to admit that the look did something funny to the beat of her heart.
Especially when with a slight tilt of his head he asked, “Why do you look so familiar?”
“Do I?” That erratic heartbeat kicked up another notch as she let go a chuckle to cover up what was really going on inside. “People say that all the time. I guess I just have one of those faces.”
She pushed Nicole’s schoolwork in his direction. “If you’ll take a look at these projects, you’ll see that even though she didn’t complete the assignment exactly as it was defined, Nicole has an enormous gift.”
“I’m pretty sure that’s a lie.”
“Excuse me?” Irritated, Lucy’s gaze shot up to the slight smile curling his lips. “How can you say that without even reading anything? I guarantee your sister has a multitude of talent.”
“I’m not talking about my sister’s work. I’m talking about you just having one of those faces.” He uncrossed his long, muscular legs and leaned forward without even looking at the papers she’d put in front of him. “So now I’m wondering why you sidestepped my question.”
Good God the man was intense. There was something in the combination of that nearly black hair that fell over his ears and his nape in perfect waves and those deep blue eyes that seemed almost otherworldly. She could imagine how he’d intimidate an opponent on the ice.
And it had nothing to do with his size.
But as far as admitting who she really was? Not going to happen. No need to dredge up a bad memory when all she really wanted was to help his sister.
“I apologize.” Her heart beat erratically as she avoided the intensity of his gaze. “But I would like to stick to the subject of your sister’s grades—or lack thereof—that may prevent her from graduating with the rest of her class. I genuinely care about her which is why I noticed a problem way before the loss of your parents.”
“And now you won’t even look at me,” he said. “Why is that?”
As he leaned in, his intoxicating scent came with him. Normally such things didn’t affect her. Well, at least not with her colleagues who tended to wear either too much aftershave or worse, too much body odor. Jordan wore his masculine scent like a sexual promise and Lucy swore he should come with a warning label.
Candis Terry was born and raised near the sunny beaches of Southern California and now makes her home on an Idaho farm. She’s experienced life in such diverse ways as working in a Hollywood recording studio to chasing down wayward steers. Only one thing has remained the same: her passion for writing stories about relationships, the push and pull in the search for love, and the security one finds in their own happily ever after.
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