That Love is the first book in Danny's Duet and is a great jumping off point for new readers to the series.
I first met the ridiculously handsome Danny Diamond at a party some fifteen years ago. He had brilliant blue eyes, a sexy smirk, and a muscular body.
We had a crazy, instant connection.
So, I did what I had to do—threw myself in his direction and kissed him.
And that kiss … was like a freaking fairy tale.
At least it was until he stopped it because he was married.
In my tipsy state, I replied with something cheesy like, “Don’t promise me forever, just promise me tonight.”
And after a kiss like that, who could blame me?
Clearly, I wasn’t thinking straight because I would never sleep with a married man. But in that moment, I kind of wanted to.
I thought maybe we could be friends instead, but he couldn’t. He was a hotshot rookie quarterback with a wife and a new baby.
He was living his dream.
Right now, my life is not perfect. Sure, I’m an award-winning actress, and everyone thinks I’ve got this glamorous celebrity life—that is, until my longtime boyfriend is caught on video in an Amsterdam brothel, and our love becomes tabloid fodder.
And that brings me to where I am now—hiding out from the paparazzi and staring at a shirtless, sweaty Danny, who is drinking milk from a carton at his neighbor’s house.
I want to impulsively kiss him again because he looks even better than I remember, but I don’t.
Because I don’t know that his marriage is over.
Or that he feels the same way about me.
Or that we might actually have a shot at that forever kind of love.
Release date: October 22, 2019
Publisher: Swoonworthy Books
Print pages: 232
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I’m standing in Jadyn’s kitchen, three of our combined six children clamoring about with the dog licking milk off my shoes, and staring at the woman who was probably the love of my life.
This isn’t exactly how I expected things to go down if I were ever lucky enough to see her again.
“Why don’t you guys grab some cookies, go downstairs, and work on your homework before we have to leave for the game?” I suggest to the kids.
“I can’t eat cookies, Dad,” Devaney says. “I’m in high school. I have to look hot.”
“You’re fourteen. You shouldn’t worry about that.”
“Whatever,” she says, grabbing an apple from the island and going downstairs to the ultimate kid zone. A place to play, relax, and study. I’m redoing my house so that it’s more kid-friendly, hoping to wipe the memories of being forced to behave like little adults by my soon-to-be ex from the kids’ minds.
“There are wipes under the sink you can use,” Damon says as he grabs a paper plate from the buffet and piles it high with snacks.
I can’t get him to lift a finger at home, but at the Mackenzie house, kids are told how to behave if they want to hang out here. And they all follow the rules because they want to be here.
“If it’s sticky, Auntie Jay will not be happy.”
I slip off my shoes and gesture to Jennifer that I’ll be right back. I step over the sticky mess, pick up the dog, and carry her downstairs, knowing, in her advanced age, she doesn’t like to be separated from Chase.
As I make my way back up the stairs, I wonder if I’m dreaming. If I’ll get back to the kitchen and realize that seeing Jennifer was some exercise-induced hallucination.
How could she possibly be here? Why is she here?
It’s been years. I know, not long after I cut off communication with her, she started dating a drummer. I know they’ve never had children even though the tabloids always proclaimed she had a baby bump. I’ve seen photos of her on magazine covers, seen every movie she ever made, and dreamed of her many times over the years.
But I never imagined she’d be here.
“Why are you here?” I blurt out the second I get to the top of the stairs.
But she’s gone.
Am I losing it? Was the milk bad?
“Because Jadyn invited me,” a voice says from behind the island.
I take a few steps forward and see her down on her knees, antibacterial wipes in hand, cleaning up the floor.
“You didn’t have to do that.” I pull a wipe out of the plastic container. “I was coming back to clean it. I’m sorry. I was surprised to see you here. Speaking of that, why are you here?”
“You might be the only person in the world who doesn’t know.” She scrubs the floor with more vigor.
“About Troy.” When she looks up at me, her eyes fill with tears.
“Is he dead?” I ask, assuming the worst as I drop onto my knees next to her.
“What? No? He, um—there are photos. He and some girls. In bed. A wild night after a gig in Amsterdam. The paparazzi have been relentless. They all want a statement from me. What do they think I’m going to say? My boyfriend cheated on me, and it hurts like hell. Yes, I was shocked. No, I had no idea.”
“My wife had an affair for a year,” I quickly confess. “I had no idea. She told me right before we were supposed to leave on a trip to celebrate our fifteenth anniversary. I realized later the reason she waited until then was because it meant she would get more, according to the prenup.”
“Were you happy?”
“I thought we were.”
“Did you ever think about me?” she asks as our gazes lock.
“I was there when you won your first Super Bowl. I had a pass to go out on the field. My first reaction was to run down there to congratulate you, but your wife was there, and you were holding your little girl when you received the MVP Award. I understood the joy on your face. It wasn’t just because you’d won. It was also the way your little girl held on to you. She smiled and kissed your cheek. Troy is a big fan of yours. He had no idea we’d ever met. I pretended to be sick for the next championship you won. I just couldn’t bear to go. It was one thing to watch you on TV, another to be there in person. I’ve even been invited to the ESPYs numerous times over the years. I always turn it down.”
“Because I knew, the next time we were together, I wouldn’t be so moral.”
I gulp, knowing that was the same reason I couldn’t be just her friend. She’s so beautiful—long blonde hair, big blue eyes, killer body. I take in her full, lush lips, wanting nothing more than to kiss them—screw that, I want to take her by the hair, drag her to my house, throw her on the bed, and—
The garage door bursts open. Crusher, Jadyn’s youngest, comes barreling into the kitchen, closely followed by Jadyn and her other two children.
“Danny!” Jadyn says, her eyes widening with surprise when she spots me on the floor. “Um, I was going to tell you about Jennifer being here before—shit.”
“Shit, shit, shit,” Madden yells out.
“The kids are downstairs and have cookies,” I tell her son.
“Yes,” Jadyn agrees. “All of you, go down there, have a snack, and get your homework done if you want to go to the game tonight.”
They grab juice boxes, snacks, and their backpacks and are off to the basement. The garage door opens again, and Phillip, who must not see me and Jennifer on the floor, grabs his wife and pulls her in for a deep kiss.
“Sorry I’m late. I promise to make it up to you later,” he suggests, his hand moving to caress her backside while his lips slide down her neck. “I missed you.”
I stand up and hold my hand out for Jennifer, who takes it.
“You playing hide-and-seek with the kids?” he asks when he sees me, but he stops speaking when Jennifer follows me up. “Um, Jadyn?” he says, turning toward his wife and narrowing his eyes at her but not appearing as surprised as he should be.
I want to contemplate that, but Jennifer’s hand is in mine, and it makes my heart pound like I just ran fifty yards for a touchdown.
“I know. Okay,” Jadyn says to Phillip. “But I had to offer. And I was shocked and thrilled when she took me up on it. We literally just walked in the door from the airport when I had to leave her here because you bailed on picking up the kids.” She turns to me and Jennifer. “I’m sorry. I certainly didn’t expect you to see each other after all this time when Danny is … just all sweaty.”
Jennifer slides her hand out of mine, leaving it feeling empty. Lonely. Incomplete.
“I’m not that sweaty,” I counter, but I know I am.
Jennifer is probably repulsed.
“I told you, playing matchmaker is like playing with matches. You’ll get burned,” Phillip says sternly to his wife.
“You didn’t want me to come?” Jennifer asks Phillip, looking stricken.
Phillip gives her the same smile he gives Jadyn when she’s pissed. The one that instantly calms her down. “My wife doesn’t like to be told what to do. Yesterday, after her meeting, she was debating on all the pros and cons of inviting you. After an hour’s worth of texts, I told her I thought it was a bad idea.” He grins. “That pretty much guaranteed she would contact you. I’m really more surprised that you came.” He walks over and gives her a hug. “Surprised but glad. It’s been a long time. I’m sorry for what you’re going through.”
I roll my eyes. This is why Phillip, who once told Jadyn that he’d never be able to afford the kind of house I could buy, has almost surpassed me in wealth. His good looks, sincerity, and his ability to sell anything to anyone mean he’s taken his dad’s already successful company to new heights. Not to mention, he has his equally talented wife, who probably just signed a contract to rebuild an iconic Beverly Hills hotel today.
“I’m glad I’m here, too,” Jennifer says, practically melting into Phillip’s arms.
I should be the one hugging her, I think, feeling jealous.
“Why were you two on the floor?” he asks.
“I spilled milk,” I say, sounding dumb, like the girl in Dirty Dancing who says, “I carried a watermelon”—a movie line Jadyn often quotes during awkward moments.
“And I was helping to clean it up,” Jennifer adds.
“Although Angel took care of most of it. My son’s idea.” I chuckle.
“The boy is smart,” Phillip says.
“Damon can come up with a million ways to slack.”
“He’s a leader,” Phillip counters. “Nothing wrong with knowing how to delegate. Isn’t that what you do on the field? Here, you take the ball, so I don’t get hit,” he teases.
Jennifer laughs. And keeps laughing. Like she hasn’t laughed in a while.
“Quarterbacks do that, don’t they?” She giggles some more.
A broad smile spreads across my face.
Her laughing reminds me of how we met. I said something that made her laugh and then didn’t leave her side the rest of the night. I wonder what my life would have been like if I hadn’t stopped talking to her. But I know. Talking would have led to seeing, seeing would have led to touching, touching would have led to sex. There is no doubt in my mind that the sex would have been monumental, intense. Probably better than winning the big game.
Just simply helping her up brought a rush of the kind of passion that I hadn’t felt in a really long time.
I’ve been blaming Lori for the failure of our marriage. She’s the one who was unfaithful. She’s the one who ended it. But would she have cheated if we had truly been happy?
I know my feelings for her were never the same after she accused Jadyn and me of having an affair. And they took another hit when she got mad at me for staying at the hospital with Phillip when a pregnant Jadyn nearly lost her life after a car accident.
I had plenty of opportunities to cheat.
But I never did.
And it wasn’t my love for Lori that stopped me. It was the love I had for my children.
“Let’s go out on the deck and have a beer,” Phillip says, finally releasing Jennifer.
Danny puts his hand on the small of my back, causing shivers to run down my spine. Good shivers. The kind that seem to connect directly to my lady parts.
I shake my head, mentally chastising myself. Your long-time significant other cheated on you. You need to deal with that. Lick your wounds. Pick yourself up and move on. You should not be thinking about doing it with Danny Diamond.
But the man is like sex on a stick, waiting to be licked. If I’m being honest with myself, that’s exactly why I came here. It wasn’t just to get away from the paparazzi.
“Why don’t you go take a quick shower?” Jadyn says to Danny.
She mentioned earlier that she didn’t want me to see him again for the first time when he was hot and sweaty, but I disagree. It’s exactly how I should have seen him. Because I’ve been seeing a version of him this way in my dreams for years.
We were at a party. Got introduced. He shook my hand as his blue eyes drank me in. It was intimate. Perfect. I was being my loud, crazy self, but in that moment, it felt like time slowed. I was dating my hot costar at the time, but there had never been any talk of exclusivity. I’d been drinking a little. Danny made me feel insanely hot, and I couldn’t help it. I wanted him. So, I grabbed a bottle of champagne from the party and told him we were going somewhere quiet to talk. Although talking was the last thing I wanted to do with Danny Diamond. I wanted him to throw me into the sand and screw my brains out. I even made the first move and kissed him.
But then he told me he was married.
After that kiss, there was no way I was going to let him leave. I would take whatever time I could get with him. We sat in the sand and talked for hours, each of us spilling all our secrets to the other. All the things we feared about how our lives would end up. Danny told me about his wife and her jealousy. He beamed when he showed me pictures of their baby girl. He was concerned he would end up hating his wife, and their relationship would go down in flames.
He told me he’d never met someone like me. Never felt things so fast. I told him I could never be with a married man. He told me he would never cheat.
Then we just sat there, staring into each other’s eyes, wondering what could have been had we met earlier in life. I’d had enough to drink that I blurted out exactly what I was thinking.
We talked about true love. Soul mates. And we both knew, without a doubt, that’s what we were. He caressed my cheek as we spoke. I held his other hand and kept pressing my lips into it.
Phillip thrusts a beer toward me, bringing me back to the present. I take a long sip. Because of Troy’s struggle with addiction, I didn’t keep beer in the house and avoided alcohol out of respect for him. How long has it been since I’ve had a crisp, cold beer? And it tastes even better with the cool breeze coming off the lake and the sun’s rays warming the top of my head.
“This tastes so good,” I mutter.
“The first rule here is, you don’t drink until we toast,” Phillip says.
I put my head down, embarrassed. “Jadyn mentioned that. Sorry, I forgot.”
“It’s okay,” Jadyn says. “We just try to appreciate moments like these.”
Phillip smiles at his wife and squeezes her hand. “And we have a lot to toast to tonight.”
They raise their bottles in the air, so I follow suit.
“To a few brief moments of quiet before all hell breaks loose downstairs,” Phillip says.
“And to a gorgeous evening,” Jadyn adds.
“And to Jennifer coming back into our lives,” Danny says, his gaze settled on me as we clink our bottles. I take a drink—once again prematurely because he turns and presses his bottle against Jadyn’s. “And to the woman who got her here.”
I’m touched. By all of it. Their friendship. Their family. Their inviting me into their home. Who does that?
Before I moved to California, I had lots of friends. But I left home, and they stayed, and then we lost touch. Not the case with Danny, Phillip, and Jadyn. Their friendships have only deepened over time. It makes me long to be a part of it.
Although he didn’t talk much more about his wife that night, he did mention she was jealous of his best friend. When I went to the Nebraska game, I understood why. Jadyn and Danny’s closeness was unnerving. Men and women couldn’t be just friends. I thought there must be something going on. But then I saw her and Phillip together and knew she wasn’t a threat.
It’s apparent that they’ve been his rock through the divorce.
The moment of silence passes quickly, and before I have swallowed my third sip of beer, kids run out of a door under the deck and into the backyard, the two older boys wrestling each other and possibly in a fight. As they roll across the ground, I see the smiles on their faces. Damon gets pinned by Chase and taps out. Best friends, too. No matter what. I can just tell.
Chase gets up, wipes the grass from his pants, helps Damon up, and then takes a phone out of his back pocket, saying, “I win.”
We watch as he types something into his phone.
Jadyn’s phone immediately buzzes.
She scans the message and then stands up. “Chase Mackenzie, I’m going to take your phone away. You know the rules.”
His eyes get big, and he looks sincere when he says, “I didn’t see you up there!” He gives her a grin. “I know you had a busy trip, Mom. You shouldn’t have to cook. Sound like a plan?”
Jadyn smiles at her son. “You’re very thoughtful, Chase. Yes, if you’ll go make sandwiches for everyone now and be dressed and ready to leave for your football game in an hour, we’ll all go out for pizza after.”
Chase and Damon cheer and wrangle all the kids back inside.
But then Jadyn looks at me. “Oh, shoot, um, maybe you going out isn’t a good idea. Although I doubt anyone would realize who you were if you wore a ball cap. I’d leave you home with Danny, but he and Phillip help coach the team.”
“I love pizza,” I say, not wanting to be left out. “And football.”
“I should probably go shower,” Danny says.
I’m hoping he’ll ask me to join him, but know that probably wouldn’t be appropriate.
“I could use a shower, too,” I practically whimper.
Jadyn presses her lips together, trying not to smile, and I realize how that just sounded.
“I, uh, didn’t mean, like, with him,” I lie. But then I glance at Danny, who looks slightly crushed, so I start babbling, “I mean, I’d love to shower with you sometime, Danny. Uh, I mean, I just—the traveling. I don’t know what I’m even saying. I’m sorry. Just stop me.”
“Why don’t I show you up to the guest room before I leave?” Danny offers, his eyes soft with understanding. “You can freshen up, and I’ll meet you all back here in a few.”
I drain the rest of my beer, feeling tipsy the second we’re in the house. Or maybe I feel tipsy because Danny is holding my hand as he leads me back to the garage, out a side door, and then up a set of stairs I didn’t notice before.
“Jadyn recently turned the attic into a combination office slash guest room. The good news is, it’s quiet up here.”
The space is gorgeous. The ceiling follows the roofline and features wood beams wrapped with metal. The walls shimmer in a warm pink. The girlie color is offset by numerous architectural drawings set in black metal frames. A dark wood drafting table is set against a wall with an inspiration design board hanging above it. On the opposite wall two antique barn doors are slid open, one side filled with binders full of swatches and the other side featuring a kitchenette with a glimmering pink and gold glass backsplash. This area also has a round table across from a seating area filled with what looks to be the most comfortable couches in the history of mankind.
My head is on a swivel as I try to take it all in, but Danny leads me through the space without a word. He slides open a barn door at the end of the room to reveal an adorable bedroom suite, one that looks straight out of an HGTV episode. One wall is covered in reclaimed wood. A cream linen padded bed sits in front of it, draped in fluffy white bedding. A soft, pastel wool rug covers the wood floors, and modern gold metal chairs are dressed with white fur. A crystal chandelier dangles from the ceiling.
“It’s so pretty. I might never leave,” I blurt out.
Danny lets go of my hand and turns toward me.
And I suddenly feel like just a girl. Standing in front of a boy. And nothing else matters. Not where we’ve been or what we’ve been through to get to this exact spot. Just like we stood on the beach that night. When it was almost dawn.
“I can’t believe you’re here,” he says.
“I can’t either,” I reply, our eyes locked.
We don’t speak. We don’t have to. Just the fact that we are here says volumes about what could be.
But then he goes, “Why are you really here?” His tone is brusque, almost irritated. “You just need a place to hide out from the press?”
“I, uh …” I say, getting distracted by his chest, noticing a salty residue clinging to his collarbone. Is it gross that I want to run my finger through it and taste it?
“You, uh, what?” he asks, causing me to catch the squint of his eye. The hurt behind those gorgeous baby blues.
“That’s not an easy question to answer. We haven’t really caught up yet.”
“I’m getting a divorce, and you’re going through a rough spell,” he says.
Now, I see why he looks all bunched up. He really thinks I only came to hide out.
“I left him,” I say, causing the tension in his jaw to soften ever so slightly.
“And Jadyn invited you.”
“Yes,” I say, feeling ready to cry. “I was afraid to come, but being able to see you again … I just couldn’t pass it up. And it makes no sense really. I look horrible. I haven’t slept much lately. And I thought you were still married. But I had to come.”
He studies me. There is a large mirror decorating the bedroom, and I suddenly see myself reflected in it. My eyes are just visible over Danny’s shoulder. I see the fear in them. The sadness. For what I know I lost.
And I’m not talking about my relationship with Troy.
“Why?” he says again.
He is just like me, I realize. Broken. Hurt.
“Because I’ve never stopped thinking about you. When you cut off contact, it broke my heart.” He looks like he’s going to say something, but I keep going, “No, that’s not right. When we stopped talking, it was like you took a piece of my heart. Or I left it with you. I’m not sure.” As I speak, I feel bolder, more sure of myself. “I was in love with you, Danny. I had never in my life felt what I felt when I was with you. Considering that nothing really happened between us, you obviously made an impact on me.”
He doesn’t reply. Doesn’t tell me he felt the same way. Instead, he nods and then walks past me and into the bathroom where he turns on the shower.
“It’s got a tankless heater, so you won’t run out of hot water, just takes a while to get all the way up here.”
“Thanks,” I say, following him into the bathroom, which, although spacious, feels small, Danny’s big body filling up the area.
He tries to slide past me, but his naked chest grazes across the front of my shirt. I swallow hard. He keeps moving toward the door, like he can’t get away from me fast enough.
“I’m sorry I made you spill the milk,” I say for lack of anything better.
“It’s okay,” he says softly, stopping. He’s close to me, and he definitely doesn’t stink. Instead, he smells like he did that night at the beach. The salt mixed with his manly scent. “I have to be honest with you, Jennifer. I’ve been through a lot over the last few months. I don’t know if I could handle you coming back in my life, only to be split apart again. In other words, don’t start something with me you don’t fully intend to finish.”
He walks out the door, leaving me feeling completely confused.
I’m not sure what to do. I don’t really need a shower. I took one just this morning. I meant it as a joke. Sorta.
But I strip off my clothes anyway, lost in thought, the emotion behind what Danny said hitting me full force. He’s afraid I’ll go back to Troy. That we’ll—
“Oh!” I hear and then see Danny standing at the doorway, his eyes wide. “Um, sorry. Didn’t know you’d be naked already.” He smiles and shakes his head. “I came back to tell you I’m sorry for acting like a jerk.” He pulls me in tightly, the skin on our chests touching and filling me with desire. “I’m glad you’re here, Jennifer.”
I’m ready for him to kiss me. To strip off his shorts and take me in the shower.
Instead, he walks back out the door.
I leave quickly, the thought of Jennifer’s naked body on my mind as I race down the stairs and through the front yard to the safety of my house, hoping none of the neighbors notice me leaving Phillip and Jadyn’s house with a raging boner. One touch, and I feel like a teenager again. Heck, that’s not true. More like a middle schooler. I could control it better than this in high school.
It’s been over five months since I’ve had sex. Five months since my wife left. My kids have held my focus. They were devastated. They had a million questions. They blamed me. They blamed her. In the end, they wanted to stay here, in their house. They quickly realized their mother was off with someone new and didn’t want to spend time with them. Not that she really ever did before. To her, our kids were just another status symbol. She hired nannies because she couldn’t handle the messy parts of childrearing. She had a housekeeper and a cook for the rest. Part of me wondered what the hell she did all day. Screwed around, obviously.
But even thoughts of Lori’s betrayal can’t quell my arousal.
As I step into a cold shower, my thoughts turn back to Jennifer Edwards.
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