Sexy, smart, and exciting, the Garner brothers have made Glory Junction, California, the country’s top extreme sports town—but there’s no shortage of thrills wherever they go . . . Darcy Wallace may be an employee at Garner Adventure, but the kind of excitement she’s looking for is more of the indoor variety. After a sexless marriage and a painful divorce, who better to help her get her groove back than the hottest player in town—Win Garner himself. There’s just one flaw in her seduction plan: he won’t cooperate. Win is used to being the pursuer, so when Darcy turns the tables it throws him off his game—at first. Not that he isn’t tempted, he’s just trying to change his ways. Yet when he and Darcy are paired up for a work project there’s no avoiding the tension between them—or the fact that they make an indomitable team. Soon, Win begins to feel their connection is no game. This could be the real thing. And one no-strings-attached night together just might seal the deal . . . Praise for Need You “Well paced, well-written, a romantic delight!” —Lori Wilde, New York Times bestselling author
Release date: July 31, 2018
Publisher: Zebra Books
Print pages: 320
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He rolled to the other side of the bed and in his half-asleep state, chalked the sensation up to a drafty apartment. Or a dream. Or a ghost. He didn’t really care which one because according to his internal clock, he was still on snooze control.
Then it happened again. A soft little tickle across his cheek. He swatted it away and rolled onto his stomach. This time he felt the mattress dip and something brush against his arm. Something warm and distinctly human. The realization startled him awake and he jolted upright.
“What the hell?” He reached for the lamp, thinking once he turned it on he could use it as a weapon. Bad idea because he didn’t have a lamp or anything that could be used as a weapon, except a baseball bat, which he kept with his sports gear. And his sports gear was scattered all over his puny apartment, which meant it was probably within arm’s reach. Somewhere.
“Shush,” someone said in the dark. “It’s just me.”
He searched his memory for “me” and came up empty. But “me” was definitely female. Soft, round, and very good-smelling. Six months ago, it wouldn’t have been too unusual having a strange woman crawl into his bed in the middle of the night. But Win was on the wagon from anything that was bad for him, which included hookups of any variety. Been there, done that, nearly had the shotgun wedding to prove it.
“Who’s me?” he asked as the fog began to clear and his brain began to sharpen.
Darcy? He hadn’t met a Darcy that night. The brunette had been an Ida. He remembered because the name was unusual for someone in her thirties. And she’d kicked his ass in eight ball, which was also unusual. The only Darcy he knew was the receptionist at his family’s extreme sports company, Garner Adventure.
“Darcy Wallace?” he asked tentatively because if she was here someone he cared about was in the hospital. Darcy and Win’s brother, TJ, made the trains run on time at GA. This also entailed notifying the rest of the family whenever an emergency came up. And in the adventure business they came up a lot.
When she didn’t answer, he swung his legs off the bed and stumbled in the dark to the light switch.
Darcy Wallace lay in his bed in a fire-engine red lace teddy, spiked heels, and nothing else. Her breasts were spilling out of the cups of the lingerie and her blond hair curled around her shoulders in a style reminiscent of every high school girl’s senior yearbook photo.
Whoa, not the Darcy he knew. Not even close. He shut his eyes, hoping to erase the picture. She was every dude’s wet dream and she wasn’t supposed to be. She was supposed to be Garner Adventure’s office sweetheart, not a freaking centerfold. He opened them just long enough to take two long strides to the bed and flip the covers over her.
“What are you doing here, Darce?” It came out like a growl, not because he was angry, because he was . . . affected. And he didn’t want to be.
She wouldn’t make eye contact and her face turned as red as the teddy. “I’m . . . uh . . . here for sex.”
It was the story of his freaking life. Women loved him. Young, old, single, married, it didn’t seem to matter. From the time he was old enough to grow whiskers, they’d been throwing themselves at him. And in the interest of fairness, he’d been throwing himself right back. But not Darcy. She was . . . well . . . a friend. Sort of. The truth was unlike the rest of the female population, Darcy barely gave him the time of day. Until now.
She tossed the blanket off, stretched her arms down at her sides, and lay stiff as a board, like she was waiting for an undertaker to come get her. “Okay, let’s get to it then.”
He blew out a breath. “Since when am I your type?” he asked, and continued to stand there, a bit shell-shocked, wondering if perhaps this was someone’s idea of a practical joke.
Her face got even redder. “You’re everyone’s type. But apparently, I’m not yours.” She jerked the blanket back over her and tugged it up to her chin.
Until six months ago, every woman was his type. He was trying to change that image and Darcy wasn’t making it any easier. His gaze flipped to the front door, which he would’ve sworn he’d locked after coming home from Old Glory.
“How’d you get in?” He checked the clock on his desk, which was cluttered with cups from the Juicery. Jeez, it was two in the morning.
“I have your key, remember?” When he did overnights with GA’s tour groups she took care of his cat. Correction: The neighborhood cat that had turned out to be a lousy mouser. Someone had to feed the mangy thing.
He sat in an old, overstuffed chair the last tenant had left behind and ran his fingers through his hair. Pants would probably be good but he didn’t know where they were and couldn’t seem to focus on anything other than her. “Let me ask you something. How would you react if one of your guy friends showed up in your bedroom in the middle of the night, uninvited? I would hope you’d call the cops.”
She sat up and leaned her back against the headboard, clutching the blanket until her fingers looked like they were ready to snap in half. “Is that what you’re going to do, call the police?”
Hell no. Win’s eldest brother was the police chief. One look at this scenario and Colt would automatically blame Win, accuse him of seducing their shy, little receptionist. Except from where Win was sitting, Darcy wasn’t so shy. Or little. From what he’d seen, she was a curvy package, round in all the right places.
And the fact that he was even contemplating Darcy’s curves was violating his new policy against casual hookups. But old habits die hard.
“No,” he said, and flipped his hand between them. “But I’m still not clear on what you’re doing here.” Win never would’ve pegged Darcy as the booty-call type. But it was always the quiet, demure ones who surprised you.
“I told you.” She leaned forward and appeared to be summoning her gumption. “Sex. I was in the mood.”
“And you just thought you could break into my house, get into my bed, and I’d put out?”
“Exactly.” She bobbed her head.
He supposed he had a reputation that was hard to shake. But come on. It was dangerous sneaking around someone’s apartment, not to mention disrespectful. On the other hand, Win had never gotten much respect. That’s why he was going cold turkey.
“Why do you want sex?” Stupid question. But it was two in the morning and he wasn’t firing on all cylinders. “Let me rephrase that. Why do you want sex with me?”
“Because I’m guessing you’re good at it and I didn’t think you’d make such a big deal out of it. It’s not like I’m asking you to marry me.”
Not a good enough reason, at least not for Darcy. And not for him to quit his moratorium. “Darcy, you can’t just jump into bed with someone for sport.”
“Why not? You do it.” She had a point.
She actually had the audacity to roll her eyes.
“What, you don’t believe me?”
She took a strand of hair and curled it around her finger. It was a nervous gesture, not meant to be seductive. Yet, it was sexy as hell. “If I was someone you were attracted to, you would.”
He’d been attracted to Ida but he’d come home alone. Proof that he was sticking to the program. “Nope. After Britney I’m a changed man.”
Britney, the wack-job blackjack dealer who’d nearly tricked him into marrying her, was now married to someone else. Thank God.
“I would never do what she did to you,” Darcy said.
No, she wouldn’t dupe him into believing she was pregnant with his baby when it was really someone else’s. “That’s not the point, Darce.”
“What exactly is the point then, Win?” She gave him a withering glare.
“The point is that you coming here like this in that”—he waved his hand at the teddy that was now concealed under yards of his ugly plaid comforter—“was not a good idea. And it has nothing to do with whether I’m attracted to you. For God’s sake, Darcy, we work together.”
“So.” She shrugged. “It would be a one-night thing. Don’t tell me you haven’t had flings with some of the tour guides.”
Too many to count but Win was taking the Fifth. “What’s your sudden interest in sex?” Another asinine question.
Before she turned away, Win caught a new shade of red creep up her cheeks. So, their girl Darcy wasn’t getting any. Granted, Glory Junction was a small town but it was so flooded with tourists—hence the reason why an adventure-tour company did so well here—that she should’ve been spoiled for choice.
“Darce, look at me.” When she wouldn’t, he walked over to the bed, which was a singularly terrible idea because she looked so vulnerable and sweet huddled under the covers that he was tempted to give her what she wanted. Take one for the team.
“If you’ll just turn around, I’ll get my stuff and leave,” she said, her voice tinged with humiliation.
He looked around the studio apartment, which was roughly the size of his sister-in-law’s walk-in closet, and wondered what precisely was Darcy’s “stuff.” And then he saw the white down puffy coat strewn across his couch. “That yours?” He nudged his chin at the jacket.
“Yes. Could you hand it to me, please?” Darcy clearly didn’t want him to get a second look at her in the teddy. Kind of a disconnect for a woman who five minutes ago wanted to do the nasty.
“It’s seventy-five degrees out.” June in Glory Junction.
“I know but I don’t own a trench coat.”
He grabbed the puffy jacket and handed it to her.
“Turn around, please.”
Quite frankly, he wanted another look but being a gentleman, he complied. “So how long has it been?”
“Huh?” He could hear the rustling of nylon and a zipper.
“Can I look now.” She said “yes” and when he turned back around the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man was taking off her come-fuck-me stilettos. “Since you last got laid?”
“Not that long ago,” she said, clearly lying.
“So at two in the morning you got an itch to come over to my place?”
“Something like that. Could you please forget this ever happened?” She looked around his apartment.
It wasn’t the best but he didn’t need much, mostly just a place to sleep. He put in a fair number of hours guiding everything from extreme skiing expeditions to white-water rafting trips for Garner Adventure. Lately, he’d been thinking about taking on more responsibility at the family business to prove he was more than the Garners’ prodigal son. While he and his three brothers owned an equal share of Garner Adventure, everyone but Win had his own calling. Colt, the oldest, was Glory Junction’s top cop. TJ, next in line, was GA’s CEO and all-around business tycoon. Josh, just a couple of years older than Win, was a former army ranger and war hero.
Other than dropping out of the Olympic team ten years ago, Win’s claim to fame was . . . nothing. He was considered the family screw-up. And the Britney shitstorm hadn’t helped matters.
“You’re not hot in that?” He was sure the puffy coat came in handy during Glory Junction’s punishing winters. But even in his underwear, Win felt the cloying spring night on his skin.
“A little. But I’ll be home soon.” Darcy lived with her grandmother, Hilde Wallace, on the outskirts of town.
When Win was a kid, the widow Wallace had caught him and his buddies TPing her house. Out of guilt, he’d gone back the next day to clean up the mess and she’d made him cookies and hot cocoa. She’d pretty much been his dream woman ever since.
Darcy had come to live with her about a year ago. That’s really all he knew about her background. She hadn’t grown up in Glory Junction like the rest of them and they didn’t stand around GA, talking about their pasts. Although last winter she’d been the first person he’d confided in about the whole Britney fiasco. It had been the only substantive conversation they’d had since she’d started the job. Darcy was reserved and pretty much kept to herself. That’s why her coming here tonight was so out of character.
“Hang on a sec,” he told her as she started for the door, then rummaged through his closet. “You can wear this.” He tossed her a GA T-shirt that would be long enough to pass for a dress. At least on her.
“Can I change in your bathroom?” She pulled the puffy coat tighter as if she wanted to disappear inside of it and his eyes automatically moved to her breasts.
For a woman who was trying to get him in the sack, she wasn’t exactly pulling out all the stops. “Sure.”
She vanished inside the john and he took the opportunity to find his jeans and slip them on. When she came out, the T-shirt replaced the jacket, which was slung over her arm.
“You okay?” he asked, feeling like whatever happened here tonight might put a crimp in their work relationship.
“Of course.” She stuck out her chin but Win swore her bottom lip quivered.
“No hard feelings, right?”
“Nope. I’m sorry I forced myself on you.” And for the second time, those baby blues of hers wouldn’t meet his.
“Nah, it wasn’t like that. But, Darcy, be careful about whose apartment you break into. It’s really not advisable to solicit sex that way.”
“You think?” She gave him another classic eye roll. “I only did it with you because I thought you’d appreciate the element of surprise.”
Before Britney, before he’d started reevaluating the trajectory of his life, he probably would’ve appreciated it—and her—way too much. But the times they were a-changing. It was high past the point to show the world that Win Garner had substance, that there was more to him than what everyone chose to see.
“I’ll take you home,” he said.
“I drove.” She dangled her shoes from her finger, found her purse on the floor by the bed, and lifted her face to his chest, blinking a few times.
He went back inside his closet for a shirt. “We’ll take your car and I’ll jog home.” It was only about three miles.
“Don’t be ridiculous. It’s not like I’m drunk.”
He’d sort of wondered, only because this was so uncharacteristic for Darcy.
“I’ll at least walk you out.” Glory Junction was a safe town but California had its share of kooks, even in rural areas.
“Don’t worry about it. I’m good.”
He ignored her and found a pair of flip-flops near the couch, grabbed his key ring off the tiny kitchen counter, and put his hand at the small of her back. She led him to her car, which was parked on the street in the front of his complex. Four attached Spanish-style studios that made a square around a grassy courtyard. Not quite the big family home he’d come from just a few miles down the road but centrally located so that he could walk or ride his bike to Garner Adventure on Main Street.
“Careful,” he said because she was barefoot and the sidewalk was uneven. “No moon tonight.”
She didn’t respond, which made things even more awkward than they already were. He searched for something humorous to say that might put her at ease but couldn’t think of anything off the top of his head.
When they got to her Volkswagen, she tugged the T-shirt down, even though it already fell to her knees, and gazed up at him. “I don’t know what I was thinking coming here like this. You’re not going to tell anyone, right?”
He shook his head. “Never.”
“Scout’s honor.” He held up his right arm and did the three-finger salute. And then for no reason at all he touched her lips with his and kissed her.
In and out, in and out. Darcy practiced her breathing exercises on the drive home. Exactly the way her therapist had taught her. A year of counseling and she still needed to use the technique to calm herself. And right now, she was one lungful away from a full-blown panic attack.
Of all the boneheaded moves, stuffing herself into a Victoria’s Secret scrap of lace, breaking into Win’s house, and begging him to do her was right up there with . . . her wedding night. But she didn’t want to go there. She’d had enough humiliation in the last hour. No need to reminisce about years past.
She should’ve known better than to make a fool of herself over a guy who could spend the night with a supermodel if he wanted to. But of all the men she knew, Win was perfect for what she had in mind. A one-night or even better, a one-month, stand with her own personal scholar of the Kama Sutra. His reputation as a man who knew his way around a woman’s body preceded him.
And while he could charm Darcy’s seventy-eight-year-old nana out of her granny panties with just one smile, he wasn’t the type of guy someone like her could get serious about, which made him all the more suitable. True, his buff bod, chiseled features, and deep blue eyes were the stuff of underwear commercials, she didn’t want to be a nurse maid to a man-child.
But all she’d gotten for her mortifying stunt was a pity kiss, a sort of consolation prize for the weird girl who answered the phones at his family’s adventure company and was delusional enough to throw herself at him. How would she ever face him again?
Her cell phone rang and despite Win’s rejection, it was hard to be angry with a man who called to make sure her five-minute drive home had gone safely. Who else could it be at this ungodly hour? She pulled into her grandmother’s driveway and answered because it would be petty not to.
“Do you know where my red tie with the blue stripes is? I’ve looked everywhere and can’t find it.”
“Lewis? Is that you? It’s three o’clock in the morning.” She kicked herself for not checking caller ID first.
He sighed. “Sorry. You were always a night owl so I thought you wouldn’t mind.”
Well, she did mind. Divorce meant never having to say find your own goddamned tie. “Last time I saw it”—which was a year ago—“it was in the bottom drawer of the Chippendale highboy in the guest room.”
“Walk with me,” he said and she rolled her eyes.
Darcy hung on, listening to his breathing as he climbed the stairs and scraped open what sounded like a drawer. “Well, I’ll be damned,” he said. “You’re a peach, Darcy Wallace.”
Yes, she was, even if she felt like a failure. “Good night, Lewis.” She hung up before he could rope her into something else she didn’t want to do.
The sprinklers were on and she zigzagged across the cobblestone walkway, trying to dodge getting wet. Unlike the modern monstrosity Darcy had grown up in or the Reno condo she’d left a year ago, Nana’s gardens were filled with flowers. Persian violets, Siberian irises, Oriental poppies, Japanese anemones, and plants Darcy had never heard of.
Her grandfather had built flower boxes for the clapboard cottage before he died and Nana still spent hours every day tending to her aster, English lavender, and meadow rue. What her grandmother couldn’t manage, the gardener handled. Darcy’s thumb was about as green as a desert summer.
The bursts of color and sweet fragrances from the yard filled her with happiness. And the cozy cottage was more of a home than any place she’d ever resided. Still, she wished her new life held more excitement. Being a telephone operator by day and sleeping alone every night wasn’t much different than the existence she’d left behind.
“Darcy, is that you, sweetheart?”
She cringed, wishing she could’ve snuck in undetected. But Darcy’s grandmother slept in a bedroom on the main floor because the stairs to the master suite had become too difficult for her to manage. “It’s me, Nana. Sorry I woke you. Go back to bed.”
Her gray-haired grandmother padded into the front room in slippers and took Darcy in from head to toe. “Where are your shoes, sweetheart?”
“I left them in the car.” It’s not like she would be needing them anytime soon. The last time she’d worn them was to her divorce party, a small affair of one at an expensive restaurant where they’d gotten her order wrong and lost her wrap in the coat check.
Her grandmother came around to noticing the T-shirt that hung in folds over Darcy’s figure. Lewis’s T-shirts had been tight, stretching across her chest like an ACE bandage. “Was it a swim party, dear?”
She let out a breath, hating to lie. But how do you tell your grandmother you were making a house call for sex? You didn’t, even if Hilde was the most progressive seventy-eight-year-old she knew.
“No, Nana, I was working late.” Since Darcy put in a lot of hours at Garner Adventure it wasn’t too far of a stretch, though three in the morning would’ve been an all-time record.
“Oh?” Hilde clearly wasn’t buying it. But she was good about giving Darcy plenty of personal space so they left it at that. “I made that cake you like if you’re hungry.”
Chantilly cake. White layer cake with custard filling, whipped cream frosting, and berries from Nana’s garden. The cake and all the other good things Nana made in her kitchen were the reason Darcy had gained six pounds since moving to Glory Junction.
“Maybe tomorrow,” she said, and dropped a kiss on her grandmother’s cheek. “Good night.”
Usually up by seven, Darcy slept in until nine. And despite the adage that things would be better in the morning, they weren’t. She was still sex-deprived and mortified from the night before. So she showered, went downstairs, and cut herself a huge slice of cake, the breakfast of champions. Through the window, she spied Hilde in a big, floppy hat, holding a pair of flower shears, in the garden.
The house phone rang and when she saw it was Lewis, she let it go. “Why aren’t you picking up your cell phone, Darcy?” he asked on the answering machine recording.
“Because I’m no longer married to you, Lewis!” she shouted into thin air, and then kicked herself for not having the balls to pick up the phone and tell him to bugger off. For good.
But Lewis wasn’t really a bad guy and the things that had happened between them were just as much her fault as his. She wanted to stay friends, she really did. But she no longer wanted to be his keeper. Because being Lewis’s keeper—and wife—was a full-time job without any benefits. None at all.
She thought about putting in a few hours at GA. But on a Sunday she might run into Win. The spring-summer season was kicking in and Win had back-to-back tours to guide. She knew because she did most of the scheduling at the adventure company when she wasn’t fielding phone calls and making doughnut runs. The Garners each had a legendary sweet tooth and an unbelievable metabolism. Probably from all the physical activity they did. Anyway, going to the office today was a bad idea.
She’d have to face Win eventually but today . . . there was cake.
Monday morning, she waited for her number to be called at Tart Me Up, Glory Junction’s premier bakery. GA’s meeting was at nine, which meant the pastries had to be in the conference room by 8:55, sharp. It was an extremely challenging job. So challenging that an eight-year-old could do it while standing on her head. Six months ago, she’d asked for a promotion. And here she was, still waiting for pastries.
It wasn’t that TJ, her boss, was a jerk. In fact, he was the best supervisor she’d ever worked for. High on praise, low on micromanaging. And like all the Garners, he was nice to look at. And taken by the equally adorable Deb Bennett, who also worked at GA. The company, though highly successful, was small and so was its budget. For that reason, things like promotions moved up the family chain at a glacial pace.
In the meantime, she tried to dazzle everyone with her extraordinary organizational skills. And they were extraordinary. It was the reason Lewis had fallen in love with her. At least that’s what he’d told her on the day he’d proposed as she drove his Volvo station wagon through the Buggy Bath Car Wash on Jefferson Street. He’d made her take the wheel because car washes gave him claustrophobia. As did movie theaters, nice restaurants, vacations, or any other place she wanted to go. So, for the next two years she ran his office and his home, organizing his life ri. . .
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