Authors: Andrea Laurence
Tags: #Contemporary, #Fiction, #Romance
There’s Always Room to Negotiate
When Wade Mitchell finds himself face-to-face with Victoria Sullivan, he has to reconsider his usual tactics. Wade needs to buy something she owns, and he needs it now. Since he and Tori have enough heat to melt ice, it should be a done deal.
But melting Tori’s resolve is a harder task. She’s not giving in to the man who once fired her. Yet Wade has to keep trying, because if he doesn’t, he risks exposing a secret that could destroy his family. When all proper negotiation fails, seduction may be his only option.
“I Never Had Any Intention Of Bullying You, Miss Sullivan.”
Tori tried not to watch the soft curve of his lips as he spoke to her, but he was so close she had little choice. She remembered how she'd once fantasized about kissing those lips. Of course, that was before he turned on her and threw her out of his company onto her rear end. The surge of anger doused the old memories as her gaze met his.
“What then?” she asked, her voice laced with sarcasm. “Were you going to take your friend's suggestion and seduce me? Certainly you're so masterful in the bedroom that one good romp would change my mind, right?”
Wade moved a fraction of an inch closer to her. For a moment, Tori tensed, thinking he might be leaning in to kiss her. She wanted him to, and she didn't. She pressed a gentle hand to his chest. She could feel his heart racing just as quickly as her own. He was not immune to his own game.
They were both playing with fire.
I’m so excited to share this book with you.
kicks off my very first series—Secrets of Eden. When I first started writing for Harlequin Desire, I immersed myself in the world of wealthy, powerful alpha males. My first two heroes had family money to help them start their business empires, so this time I wanted to write some self-made heroes. I wanted a group of men who had defied the odds, overcome tragedy and made themselves into the sexy alpha heroes that Desire readers know and love.
But everyone has some baggage from their past, and the heroes of Secrets of Eden are no exception. The foster brothers share a dark secret that threatens not only their family and their livelihood but their chance to find love. At the same time, their secret is what brings Wade and Victoria together. And boy, do the sparks fly! The spunky environmental architect isn’t about to make anything easy for Wade, and it was fun to write about their tempestuous relationship.
I can’t wait for you to fall in love with the whole Eden family, as I have. If you enjoy Wade and Tori’s story, tell me by visiting my website at www.andrealaurence.com, like my fan page on Facebook or follow me on Twitter. I love to hear from my readers!
Books by Andrea Laurence
What Lies Beneath
More Than He Expected
*Secrets of Eden
Other titles by this author available in ebook
has been a lover of reading and writing stories since she
learned her ABCs. She always dreamed of seeing her work in print and is thrilled
to finally be able to share her books with the world. A dedicated West Coast
girl transplanted to the Deep South, she’s working on her own “happily ever
after” with her boyfriend and their collection of animals that shed like
nobody’s business. You can contact Andrea at her website,
To Vicki Lewis Thompson, Rhonda Nelson and Kira Sinclair
You're the best plotting partners a girl could have. You helped me take the smallest kernel of an idea and develop it into a great multibook series. I look forward to many more years of creativity, laughter and good food with my ladies.
ade hated the snow. Always had. You’d
think a man born and raised in New England would feel differently or leave, but
he’d done neither. Every November when the first few flakes started falling, a
part of his soul would shrivel up until spring. That was why he’d booked himself
a trip to Jamaica for the week before Christmas. He’d planned to return to the
Edens’, as always, for the holiday, but the frantic call he’d received from his
foster sister, Julianne, had changed everything.
He had been loath to tell his assistant to cancel the trip, but
perhaps if all went well, he could use the reservation after Christmas. He could
ring in the New Year on a beach, drinking something frothy, with thoughts of his
troubles buried deep.
Interesting choice of words.
The BMW SUV wound its way down the two-lane road that led to
the Garden of Eden Christmas Tree Farm. Wade preferred to drive his roadster,
but rural Connecticut in winter was just not the place for it, so he’d left it
in Manhattan. The SUV had snow tires, chains in the back and enough clearance
not to scrape on chunks of ice in poorly cleared areas.
Spying the large red apple-shaped sign that marked the entrance
to his foster parents’ Christmas tree farm, Wade breathed a sigh of relief. He
hadn’t realized until that moment that he’d been holding his breath. Even under
the less-than-ideal circumstances, returning home always made him feel
The farm was the only home he’d ever really had. None of the
other foster homes had felt like one. He had no warm memories of living with his
great-aunt before that, nor of his early years with his mother. But the Garden
of Eden was just that: paradise. Especially for an abandoned young boy who could
just as easily have become a career criminal as a millionaire in real
The Edens changed everything. For him and every other child who
had come to live there. He owed that couple his life. They were his parents,
without question. Wade didn’t know who his father was and had only seen his
mother once since she dropped him at her aunt’s doorstep as a toddler. When he
thought of home and family, he thought of the farm and the family the Edens had
They were able to have only one child of their own, their
daughter, Julianne. For a time it seemed that their dreams of a house bustling
with children who would help on the farm and one day take over the family
business had been dashed. But then they decided to renovate an old barn into a
bunkhouse perfect for rowdy boys and started taking in foster children.
Wade had been the first. Julianne had been in pigtails when he
arrived, dragging her favorite doll behind her. Wade had been in his share of
foster homes, and this time just felt different. He was not a burden. Not a way
to get a check from the state. He was their son.
Which is why he wished he was visiting them for another reason.
In his own mind, disappointing his parents would be the greatest sin he could
commit. Even worse than the one he’d committed fifteen years ago that got him
into this mess.
Wade turned the SUV into the driveway, then bypassed the
parking lot and took the small road behind their large Federal-style house to
where the family kept their cars. It was nearing the middle of the afternoon on
a Friday, but even so, there were at least ten customer cars in the lot. It was
December 21—only a few days until Christmas. His mother, Molly, would be in the
gift shop, pushing sugar cookies, cider and hot chocolate on folks while they
waited for Ken or one of the employees to haul and bag their new tree.
Wade felt the sudden, familiar urge to start trimming trees and
hauling them out to people’s cars. He’d done it for all of his teenage years and
every Christmas break from Yale. It came naturally to want to jump back into the
work. But first things first. He had to take care of the business that had
brought him here instead of the warm beaches of Jamaica.
Julianne’s call had been unexpected. None of the kids were very
good about calling or visiting their parents or each other like they should.
They were all busy, all successful, the way the Edens had wanted them to be. But
their success also made it easy to forget to make time for the important people
in their lives.
When Julianne had shown up at the farm for Thanksgiving with
little warning, she’d been in for quite the surprise. Their father, Ken, was
recovering from a heart attack. They hadn’t called any of the kids because they
didn’t want them worrying about it or the crippling hospital bills.
Wade, Heath, Xander, Brody—any of the boys could’ve written a
check and taken care of their problems, but Ken and Molly insisted they had it
under control. Unfortunately, their solution was to sell a few plots of land
they couldn’t use for growing trees. They couldn’t understand why the kids were
so upset. And of course, the kids couldn’t tell their parents the truth. That
secret needed to remain buried in the past. And Wade was here to make sure it
stayed that way.
If he was lucky, he could take one of the four-wheelers out to
the property, buy the land back from the new owner and return before Molly could
start wondering what he was up to. He wouldn’t keep the purchase a secret from
his parents, but he’d certainly rather they not fret over the whole situation
until it was done.
Wade found the house empty, as expected. He left a note on the
worn kitchen table, slipped into his heavy coat and boots and went out to grab
one of the four-wheelers. He could’ve driven his SUV, but he didn’t want to pull
up in an expensive car and start waving money around at people.
Heath and Brody had both made visits to the farm since Julianne
broke the news. Digging up as much information as they could, they found out
that the person who had bought the smallest parcel of land was already living
out there in some kind of camper. That sounded positive to him. They might need
the money more than the land. But if they thought some rich guy was bullying
them to sell it, they’d clamp down. Or jack up the price.
Wade took the four-wheeler down the well-worn path that went
through the center of the farm. After selling eighty-five acres, the Edens still
had two hundred acres left. Almost all of it was populated with balsam and
Fraser fir trees. The northeastern portion of the property was sloped and rocky.
They’d never had much success planting trees out there, so he’d understood why
Ken had opted to sell it. He just wished his father hadn’t.
By the time he rounded a corner on the trail and neared the
border of the Edens’ property, it was a little after two-thirty. The sky was
clear and blue and the sun’s rays pounded down on the snow, making it nearly
blinding despite his sunglasses. He slowed and pulled out the new surveyor’s map
Brody had downloaded. The eighty-five acres that his parents had sold were split
into two large tracts and one small one. Comparing the map to the GPS location
on his phone, he could tell that just over the rise was the smallest, a ten-acre
residential property. He was fairly certain this was the one he was after.
Wade refolded the map and looked around for any familiar
landmarks. He’d deliberately chosen a spot he would remember. There had been a
crooked maple tree and a rock that looked like a giant turtle. He scanned the
landscape, but it appeared to him as though all the trees were crooked, and all
the rocks were buried under a foot of snow. It was impossible to know for sure
if this chunk of the property was the right one.
Damn. He’d thought for certain that he would know the spot when
he saw it. That night fifteen years ago remained etched in his memory no matter
how hard he tried to forget it. It was one of those moments that changes your
whole life. Where you make a decision, right or wrong, and have to live with it
Still, Wade was certain this was the right area. He didn’t
remember traveling far enough to reach the other plots. He’d been in too big a
hurry to roam around the property all night trying to find the perfect spot. He
eyed another maple tree, this one more crooked than the others. That had to be
the one. He’d just have to buy the land back and hope that once spring came
around, he would find the turtle rock at its base and know he’d bought the right
Surging forward through the snow, he continued up to the rise
and then started descending into the clearing toward what looked like some sort
of shimmering silver mirage.
He pulled closer and realized it was the midafternoon sun
reflecting off the superbly polished aluminum siding of an old Airstream
trailer. You could have got a suntan from the rays coming off that thing. Parked
beside it was an old Ford pickup truck with dually tires to haul the twenty-foot
monster of a camper.
Wade stopped and killed the engine on the four-wheeler. There
was no sign of life from inside the camper yet. Brody had searched online for
the property sale records and found the new owner was V. A. Sullivan. Cornwall
was a fairly small town, and he didn’t remember any Sullivans when he went to
school, so they must be new to the area. That was just as well. He didn’t need
to deal with anyone who remembered his troublesome days before the Edens and
might give him grief.
His boots crunched through the snow until he reached the
rounded doorway. It had a small window in it that he watched for movement when
he knocked. Nothing. No sound of people inside, either.
Just great. He’d come all the way out here for nothing.
Wade was about to turn and head back home when he heard the
telltale click of a shotgun safety. His head spun to the left, following the
sound, and he found himself in the sights. The woman was standing about twenty
feet away, bundled just as heavily as he was in a winter coat with a knit cap
and sunglasses hiding most of her features. Long strands of fiery red hair
peeked out from her hat and blew in the chilly wind. The distinctive color
immediately caught his eye. He’d known a woman with hair that color a long time
ago. It had been beautiful, like liquid flames. Appropriate, since he was
playing with fire now.
On reflex, his hands went up. Getting shot by some
overprotective, rural militia type was not on his agenda for the day. “Hey,
there,” he called out, trying to sound as friendly and nonthreatening as he
The woman hesitated, and then the shotgun dropped slightly.
“Can I help you?”
“Are you Mrs. Sullivan?” Hopefully Mr. Sullivan wasn’t out in
the woods with a shotgun of his own.
Sullivan,” she corrected.
“What’s it to you?”
A single female. Even better. Wade had a certain charm about
him that served him well with the fairer sex. He smiled widely. “My name is Wade
Mitchell. I wanted to talk to you about possibly—”
“Arrogant, pigheaded real-estate developer Wade Mitchell?” The
woman took a few steps forward.
Wade frowned. She didn’t seem to care for him at all. He wished
to God the woman wasn’t so bundled up so he could see who she was. Maybe then he
could figure out why the mention of his name seemed to agitate her. Of course,
he was wearing just as much winter gear as she was. “Yes, ma’am, although I
wouldn’t go so far as to use those adjectives. I wanted to see if you would be
His words dropped off as the shotgun rose again. “Aw, hell,”
she lamented. “I thought it looked kinda like you under all those layers, but I
thought, why would Wade Mitchell be in Cornwall making my life hell again after
all this time?”
Wade’s eyes widened behind his dark sunglasses. “I have no
intention of making your life hell, Miss Sullivan.”
“Get off my land.”
“I’m sorry, have I done something to you?” He scanned his
brain. Had he dated a Sullivan? Beaten up her brother? He had no memory of what
he could’ve done to piss this woman off so badly.
The woman stomped across the snow, closing the gap between them
with the gun still pointed directly at him. She pulled off her sunglasses to
study him more closely, revealing a lovely heart-shaped face and pale eyes. Her
skin was creamy, the perfect backdrop to the fiery strands of hair framing her
face. When her blue eyes met his, he noticed a challenge there, as though she
was daring him not to remember her.
Fortunately, Wade had an excellent memory. One good enough to
know that he was in trouble. The fiery redhead glaring at him was a hard woman
to forget. He’d certainly tried over the years, but from time to time, she’d
slipped into his subconscious and haunted his dreams with her piercing, ice-blue
gaze. A gaze that reflected the hurt of betrayal that he couldn’t
Property owner V. A. Sullivan was none other than Victoria
Sullivan: green architect, eco-warrior and the employee he’d fired from his
company seven years ago.
His stomach instantly sank. Of all the people who could’ve
bought this property, it had to be her. Victoria Sullivan. The first person he’d
ever fired from his company. It had pained him at the time, but he’d really had
no choice. He had a strict policy on ethics violations. She hadn’t taken the
news well. And judging by her stiff posture and tightly gripped firearm, she was
still upset about it.
“Victoria!” he said with a wide smile, trying to sound
pleasantly surprised to see her after all this time. “I had no idea you were
living out here now.”
“Miss Sullivan,” she corrected.
Wade nodded. “Of course. Could you please drop the gun? I’m
“You won’t be when the cops come.” Her words were as icy cold
as the snow, but eventually the gun disengaged and dropped to her side.
She pushed past him to the front door of the Airstream, pulling
it open and climbing the stairs. “What do you want, Mr. Mitchell?”
As she hung at the top of the steps, looking back at him, Wade
realized he needed to change his tactic, and fast. His original plan had been to
tell the owner that he wanted the property for one of his development projects.
If he told her that, she’d refuse him just to ruin his plans.