Authors: Jaci Burton
Titles by Jaci Burton
THE PERFECT PLAY
CHANGING THE GAME
TAKING A SHOT
PLAYING TO WIN
THROWN BY A CURVE
ONE SWEET RIDE
Wild Rider Series
RIDING ON INSTINCT
RIDING THE NIGHT
WILD, WICKED, & WANTON
BOUND, BRANDED, & BRAZEN
(with Jasmine Haynes, Joey W. Hill, and Denise Rossetti)
(with Eden Bradley and Lisa Renee Jones)
LACED WITH DESIRE
(with Jasmine Haynes, Joey W. Hill, and Denise Rossetti)
NAUTI AND WILD
(with Lora Leigh)
NAUTIER AND WILDER
(with Lora Leigh)
HOT SUMMER NIGHTS
(with Jessica Clare, Erin McCarthy, and Carly Phillips)
THE TIES THAT BIND
NO STRINGS ATTACHED
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
An InterMix Book / published by arrangement with the author
InterMix eBook edition / November 2013
Copyright © 2013 by Jaci Burton.
Melting the Ice
copyright © 2014 by Jaci Burton.
copyright © 2014 by Jaci Burton.
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This one is for my readers. Thank you for loving all the Rileys as much as I do.
Liz Riley sat in her bathroom, crushing disappointment tightening her stomach as she stared at the pregnancy test.
Not pregnant. Again.
Her period was three days late. She’d been so certain this time.
Dammit. The word failure wasn’t in her lexicon. She’d always succeeded, usually found a way to get what she wanted. Even when faced with a temporary roadblock, she wrangled her way around it and won. She was one of the best sports agents in the business, and always got what she wanted.
But that was business, and this was personal. For the past year, she’d tried—and failed—numerous times to get pregnant.
She tossed the stick into the trash and stared at herself in the mirror.
She whirled to face her husband, Gavin, the love of her life and the only man who could have ever made her want to have a baby.
She twined her arms around him. “Nothing. Okay, it’s something. I might have a pimple coming up on my chin.”
He gasped. “Oh, God, no. Not a pimple. It’s the end of the world.”
She glared. “This is serious.”
He tilted her chin up. “There’s nothing on your chin. And even if there was, you’d still be the sexiest damn redhead I’ve ever laid my eyes on.”
He pressed a kiss to her chin, then let his lips trail down over her neck. Her woes temporarily forgotten, she leaned against him, loving the feel of his body pressed along hers. He’d just gotten out of the shower, and the fresh, clean scent of him never failed to hit all of her hot buttons.
Then again, she liked him sweaty, too. After a practice or a game, with dirt and perspiration rolling down his face, he wore his work on his body, and she loved him that way.
As his former agent, she knew how hard he worked at baseball. He was the best first baseman she’d ever represented. Of course, as soon as they’d fallen in love, she’d had to bow out of representing him, but she never stopped appreciating what a fine specimen of an athlete he was.
Or what an amazing and giving lover he was.
Like now, as he set her on the bathroom counter, spread her legs and dropped to his knees, burying his face between her thighs.
She shuddered as he slid his tongue along her sex. Gavin always knew exactly how to pleasure her.
“Oh, yes,” she murmured, sliding her fingers through the softness of his hair, directing him to where she needed his mouth. And when he hummed against her clit, she arched against him, so close already she could come right now.
But not yet, not when the sensations he brought out of her with his tongue were so delicious. She wanted to wait just a little longer.
The distant sounds of knocking permeated her senses. But she was right on the edge, so close to coming that she blocked everything else.
“I’m almost there, Gavin. Just like that.”
And when he pressed his tongue against her clit and licked her, she came with a loud cry, holding his head there as she rode out an amazing orgasm that left her shuddering.
He rose up and kissed her with the same hard passion that always left her breathless.
She heard the rapping at the door again. Only this time, the doorbell accompanied the knock.
Gavin pulled back. “Was that the front door?”
Then realization slammed into her. “Oh, shit. I forgot Jenna and Tara were coming over.”
is right.” He looked down, and she followed his gaze where his erection bobbed hard and tempting against her leg.
She let out a rueful sigh. “So much for the hot sex. I guess I’ll get the door.”
“Good idea. I’ll be here thinking about what we could have been doing. No. Bad idea. I’ll think about on-base averages, and then I’ll get dressed.”
She laughed, slid off the counter, and hurriedly threw on some clothes before running downstairs to get the door.
Jenna arched a brow. “What the hell. I was about to call you. Were you in the shower?”
“I’m sorry. I was upstairs getting dressed. I’m running late this morning.”
“Are you sure this is a good time?” Tara asked, giving her a hug.
“It’s a perfect time. Come on in.”
Jenna brushed by. “You were probably having sex with my brother.”
Liz followed them into the living room. “And if I was, you so wouldn’t want the details about that.”
“You’re right. I wouldn’t.” Jenna laid a bag next to the sofa, then turned back to Liz. “Your face is all flushed. Oh, my God, you
having sex. Geez, Liz, you could have called us and told us to come back later.”
“No way. It was an impromptu thing.”
Tara crossed her arms, a serene smile on her face. “So, a quickie, huh?”
“More like half a quickie.”
“Ouch,” Tara said.
“You have lousy timing, Jenna,” Gavin said as he sauntered downstairs and into the living room.
“Hey, Tara’s here, too, you know.”
“Yeah, but you’re my sister, so I’ll blame you.”
He gave both Jenna and Tara hugs and asked, “Who wants coffee?”
“I definitely do,” Jenna said.
Tara nodded. “I’d love some.”
“Tea for me,” Liz said.
“Since when do you not drink coffee?” Jenna’s eyes widened. “Are you pregnant?”
“No. Just working on putting healthy stuff into my body just in case it happens someday. Which, so far, it hasn’t.”
Jenna squeezed her hand. “I’m sorry. I should stop asking you all the time about it. I’m as excited for you to have a baby as you are.”
Liz looked into the kitchen, then returned her attention to her sisters-in-law. “I took a test this morning because I was a little late. It was negative.”
Tara frowned. “I’m sorry. That has to be frustrating to want it so badly. But you just need to relax and give it time.”
Liz gave her a look. “When have you ever known me to relax?”
“Good point. But maybe if you did try to relax a little, it might happen?”
“I don’t know. We’ve been trying for a while. And I know I’m not in my twenties anymore, so maybe there’s something wrong.”
“Did you ask your doctor?”
Liz waved her hand. “She ran tests on both of us. Gavin’s fine. She said I’m fine, and that there’s no reason I can’t conceive. And she also said I should relax.”
Jenna laughed. “Okay, so just enjoy the sex thing and let it happen.”
“That’s the problem. It’s been a year. I’m not pregnant. Clearly I’m not trying hard enough.”
Jenna gave her a look. “I can’t imagine there’s anything you try to accomplish that you don’t give your all to. Even this.”
Gavin came in with drinks for all of them. “Thanks, babe,” Liz said.
“My pleasure. What were you all whispering about in here?”
Jenna gave Gavin an innocent look. “My wedding stuff, of course. Do you want to take a seat and hear all the details?”
Gavin looked horrified. “God, no. It’s bad enough you’re putting me in a tux and making me take part in it. Do I have to hear details, too?”
Liz loved the terrified look on his face. Like Jenna would ask him to go over invitations or something. “No. You’re dismissed.”
“Thank God. I’m going to the gym.”
He grabbed his gym bag and kissed Liz good-bye.
After he left, Liz motioned to the bag sitting next to the sofa. “So, what’s going on with the wedding stuff?”
Jenna grinned. “Tara brought over the place cards the other day. I thought you might want to see them.”
“You know I do. I can’t believe the wedding is only a few weeks away.”
“I can’t, either. Ty and I put it off for so long. The whole wedding thing just wasn’t important, because we love each other and are committed. I really wanted to just go to city hall or maybe to Vegas for a quickie wedding.”
“But then there’s your mother,” Tara said. “Who would have never forgiven you.”
Jenna nodded. “Exactly. Denying her a wedding, especially for her only daughter, just wasn’t an option, especially after the two of you married Mick and Gavin in such elaborate ways.”
“Uh, sorry?” Liz said with a grin. “I never thought I was the fancy-wedding type. Or even the marrying type. Until Gavin came along.”
“I can relate, believe me. I never believed in the whole commitment thing until Ty. And marriage wasn’t all that important to me, but I loved Ty and he wanted to get married, and then there’s Mom. So I caved.” Jenna took a deep breath. “And so here we are.”
Tara dipped her hand into the bag and pulled a place card out, handing it over to Liz. “With these.”
The place cards had a purple border, matching the color of the tips of Jenna’s hair, and the ink was in Ty’s hockey team color. The upper quadrant had a musical note and a hockey stick coming up through it, signifying parts of both Jenna and Tyler, with their initials woven through it.
“I love these. So much,” Liz said.
“Me, too,” Jenna said. “You don’t think they’re hokey or stupid?”
“Of course not. They’re you. And Ty. And perfect.”
Jenna grinned. “Thank you. I love them, too. Tara helped me with the design.”
Liz slid her glance over to Tara. “It’s what you do best.”
“Thanks. I’m ridiculously excited about this wedding. At least this time I’m not pregnant.”
“And how is our gorgeous nephew?”
“Pulling himself up to stand.”
“Oh, my God. Already?”
“Yes. Mick thinks he’ll be walking soon. He said when he was a baby, he walked at ten months, so he thinks Sam will walk early, too. I’m not ready yet. I want him to stay my cuddly baby as long as possible, though he can crawl through the house like a speed demon. I have to watch him every second, or he disappears. We’ve already got the gate up across the stairs.”
“He’s adorable, Tara. And where is he?” Jenna asked.
“With your parents. When I told your mom I was meeting with the two of you this morning, she asked if she could have him for a couple of hours.”
“Figures. She’s always grabbing Sam.”
Tara leaned back on the sofa. “You know you can have him whenever you want. Or come over whenever you want.”
“Sure. In my spare time, when I’m not overseeing the bar, or working at the club.”
“Oh, cry me a river,” Liz interjected. “I never get to see him, either.”
“I never thought the two of you would be fighting over my baby. You are the two least likely women I’d ever have guessed would have motherly instincts.”
“Hey,” Jenna said. “I love your baby. Not that I want any of my own right now. Too busy. But your kids? Love them madly.”
“That’s because one is in college, and the other you can love and cuddle and spoil, but you don’t have to keep him.”
Jenna nodded. “Exactly.”
Liz laughed. “Speaking of the one in college, how is Nathan doing?”
A streak of motherly pride crossed Tara’s face. “He’s doing so well. He’s putting his studies first, which I insisted on. And of course as you know, Texas ended up winning the Big 12 Conference championship this season. I’d like to think Nathan leading the team at quarterback had a lot to do with that.”
“He’s an exceptional quarterback, like his father,” Liz said. “I watched every game. He has a natural talent, very much like Mick’s.”
“Agree,” Jenna said. “In some ways, he’s better than Mick, because of the way he runs. He confuses the hell out of the defense.”
Liz nodded. “I’m eager to get my hands on him and get him an NFL contract.”
Tara looked horrified. “Oh, God, don’t tell him that. He’ll want to come out next year, and Mick and I want him to stay in school and finish up his degree.”
Liz laughed. “My lips are sealed. And I tend to agree with you. Some of these boys leave school too soon, the lure of the big contract and big money too much to resist. The longer they stay in college, the more experience they gain. At least that’s what I always advise them.”
“Obviously, they don’t always listen.”
She shrugged. “Bottom line is the choice is theirs to make. Many of them go on to have highly successful careers, but it’s my hope they all get their degrees. Or at least stay through their junior years, then finish up their degrees later.”
Tara nodded. “We’re going to push for Nathan to stay in school as long as possible, but you’re right, it’s his career and his choice. We just hope he makes the right one.”
They went over wedding planning, then went out to lunch. Liz parted ways with Tara and Jenna, then headed home, hoping to find Gavin there. Instead, he’d left a message on her phone letting her know he was going for a tux fitting, and then lunch.
Which was fine with her. She had some work to do, anyway, so she opened her laptop and answered a few emails. When she was done, she reviewed her calendar.
It was going to be an extremely busy holiday season. Not only was Jenna getting married—with Liz taking a very active role in that, which she was very excited about—but in addition, she and Gavin would be hosting Christmas for the Riley family in their home this year. Since this was the first time they’d have the entire family over for Christmas, Liz felt the burden of doing everything just right.
Not that Gavin’s family put high expectations on Christmas or anything. His parents were the kindest people she’d ever known. Kathleen and Jimmy Riley had been family to her—more parents to her than her own—since before she and Gavin had ever gotten together. She loved them so much, and they were genuinely warm people. So there was no pressure, other than the normal pressure she put on herself, which was always high.
But still, there’d be a lot of coordinating to do. The Riley family was formidable, and now that there were wives and kids and significant others in the picture, Christmas was going to be huge this year. And Liz intended for this to be the best holiday ever.
She made a few notes about food. Catering was out, unfortunately, because the Rileys just wouldn’t go for that. Nothing but homemade at Christmas. Kathleen would help her, of course, and so would Tara, along with Kathleen’s sister-in-law, Cara. They’d all have to get together and discuss options.
This would totally work.
She leaned back in her chair and stretched, then thought about Gavin and that wretched pregnancy test from earlier.