Authors: Marina Adair
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To my husband, Rocco,
with you everything is sweeter.
I would like to thank my fabulous agent, Jill Marsal, for guiding me through my first year of being a published author. And what a year! You are a fairy godmother, savvy agent, and dear friend all wrapped up in one.
A special thanks to my editor Michele Bidelspach for taking a chance on my work and pushing me to make this story the best it could be, and to the rest of the team at Grand Central for all of the amazing work and support.
I am forever grateful for the amazing women whom I am lucky enough to call friends: Hannah Jayne, Kori David, Diana Orgain, Marni Bates, Barbara Halliday, and, of course, you, Boo.
Finally, and most important, to my fabulous daughter and husband, for understanding that this is more than just my dream and believing in me no matter how crazy things got.
osephina Harrington had barely pulled on her pink lace panties and already she knew it was a mistake.
It wasn’t the nearly naked part that had her worried. Or the pair of strappy stilettos, which had her teetering in the confined space. What had her sweating was how the hell she was going to stand back up.
Who knew joining the mile-high club could be so dangerous? Okay, so the jet was on the tarmac, but still.
Between her fiancé’s high-profile life and orchestrating a Manhattan social front to ensure that Wilson’s “career-making moment” went off with flawless perfection, Josephina and Wilson had hardly seen each other, let alone found time to talk about the wedding. So if engineering a totally out of the ordinary sexcapade got Wilson out of his business briefs and into hers, Josephina was more than willing. Especially since lately, “kinky” had consisted of her on top.
Grabbing a pink negligee from her bag, she tugged it over her head, braced her hands on either wall of the minuscule bathroom, and slowly walked her way back up. A fluff here, a swipe there, and a few seductive kissy-faces in the mirror later, the normally professional Josephina was ready for Mission Get-the-Sizzle-Back.
Cracking open the door, she whispered in her steamiest come-hither voice, “Wilson, can you help me a minute?”
She pulled the door closed and smothered a nervous giggle. Wilson was going to flip, she was sure of it. One look at her in
and he would forget the contract, forget his conference call with the senator from New York, forget his pressing emails. Forget everything but them.
Muffled footsteps sounded outside the door and Josephina sucked in a breath. For the first time in—God she couldn’t even remember—she felt hope swell.
The jet suddenly shifted as if someone had slammed a door in the underbelly. Had she been in sensible shoes, she wouldn’t have been flung backward, wedging her butt between the toilet and the sink. Nor would she have, upon freeing herself, crashed through the bathroom door and flopped into the aisle.
Josephina froze on all fours, fanny up, and swallowed down embarrassment. All of the blood rushed to her cheeks as she took in the five surprised faces staring down at her.
She didn’t remember getting up or the distinguished-looking businessmen quickly exiting onto the tarmac. But the look on Wilson’s face would forever be seared into her memory.
“Jesus.” His eyes raked over her and Josephina no longer felt sexy or seductive. She was no longer a woman claiming her destiny. She felt stupid and silly.
“Surprise,” she choked out, resisting the urge to grab an in-flight blanket and toss it over her head. This was bad, she told herself. But not the end of the world. At least she hoped not.
“What the hell were you thinking?” Before Josephina could answer, Wilson held up an exasperated hand. “Never mind. Because that’s the problem, you weren’t thinking. You never think, you just do.” He shook his head in a manner that she knew all too well. She had disappointed him—again.
“You’re right.” She took his hand. “And I’m sorry. I wanted to take your mind off work for a bit and maybe have a little fun. Besides, I bet those men have been in similar situations.”
was a U.S. state senator.” Oh, boy, this was worse than she thought. “
the man who will determine if I get the support I need for the new West Side resort. Not to mention a good chunk of the Japanese investors. And
this . . .
” Wilson’s gaze raked over her guaranteed-to-make-him-flip blush-colored lace. And he had flipped. Just not in the way Josephina had been hoping. “You know what? I can’t do this anymore. I’m done.”
He jerked his hand back and Josephina felt something inside hollow out.
“I was going to wait, but I think it’s better that we do this now.”
She wasn’t sure if it was her poor choice in footwear or the finality in his voice, but the plane suddenly began to tilt. She gripped the headrest of a leather seatback.
“I can’t do this anymore, Josephina. I can’t marry you.”
Josephina tilted her head, trying to clear her ears. Even though the jet hadn’t left the runway, she determined it must be the cabin’s pressure distorting his words. Because he couldn’t be dumping her. They were perfect for each other. Everyone thought so. Her friends loved him. Her parents loved him.
Sure, she could be impulsive, even flighty at times. But he said her creative side was cute. He had even said so in the wedding section of the
New York Times
“Damn it, don’t cry.” He handed her his handkerchief.
“I’m not.” But she took it anyway, surprised to find she was crying. She never cried. Wilson said it made her skin blotchy.
“We both know that this hasn’t been working for a while.”
“Oh, God,” she gasped, clutching the handkerchief, which was now a rumpled, snotty ball, to her chest. Everything was suddenly clear. “You said you didn’t want to do this now. As in you were going to do this later? Were you just going to wait until we got to Paris and then dump me?”
He ran a hand through his hair before meeting her gaze. “We thought it would be best if they were there. We all agreed that you’d need the support.”
?” The word caught in her throat, choking so bad it hurt to breathe. She’d thought this engagement was her first step in creating something of her own, something she could be proud of.
“Your parents agreed that—”
“My parents?” She stepped forward, jabbing a finger into his chest. “You talked to my parents before talking to me?” She poked him again—only harder, sending him backing away until he collided with an open tray table. “You broke up with my parents?”
She grabbed him by his shirt collar and pulled him close. “This is calm.”
A bitter taste filled her mouth. The only person she’d ever confided in had sold her out. Placed her in the position to look as if she, once again, couldn’t successfully manage anything through to completion. Her engagement—as her parents would immediately point out—was another failure in a long list of Josephina missteps.
“This is exactly why we thought to do it around the table,” he said. “You just feel and then act. You never take into consideration how it will affect anyone but yourself. I wanted to make this work. Our families get along, we have the same circle of friends. Every time you come with me I think, is today the day she does something that ruins what I’ve worked so hard to create?”
“I didn’t know love could be such a liability.” Her voice was small and pitiful. She winced at the sound.
Wilson swallowed and shifted his gaze.
Oh, my God
“Did you ever even love me?”
“I tried.” His voice was gruff. “But with you, everything is hard, even love.” Even if she had been able to form some kind of coherent sound, she never got the chance.
“Mr. Schmitt? I hate to interrupt, but if you want to make it to Paris in time for the meeting the pilot says we need to take off now.”
Josephina turned and there standing in the doorway, dressed in pressed barracuda blue and illuminated by a golden halo, stood Wilson’s head of business development, Babette Roberts. It was as if the heavens themselves had opened up to shine down on perfection. She was successful, polished, spoke five languages, and glided effortlessly down the aisle in her pencil skirt and Ivy League entitlement. Josephina looked down at herself and seriously considered jumping into a garment bag. And quite possibly zipping it up.
Babette smoothed her perfectly coifed hair and Josephina felt the room swallow her whole. She took a step back, then another, grabbing her purse and slowly making her way to freedom. When she hit the metal boarding plank she turned and bolted as fast as her wobbly legs would allow.
As the jet’s engines roared to a start, drowning out the slapping of her heels on the tarmac, Josephina wondered, for the millionth time in as many seconds, why she had grabbed only her purse and not her clothes. And how it took a seven-carat Cartier bracelet, with its couture, diamond-encrusted-hook-and-eye latch—the one she’d spied in Wilson’s briefcase last week—winking at her from Babette’s wrist to realize that she was a fool.
* * *
Brett McGraw gaped at the screen on the opposite side of the bar, unable to believe his eyes. There, playing in fifty-five inches of HD glory, right below some antlers and next to the neon John Deere sign, were he and a Texas bombshell, twisted like a couple of pretzels. She was partially hidden by a wave of sweat-tangled hair but he was unmistakable, wearing only a black FCC censored tag and a Stetson. She was giving him the ride of his life, panting his name and swinging a distinctively green jacket over her head like a lasso.
Brett squinted at the screen. He remembered the night, remembered the hotel room, remembered winning his first PGA Masters. But he had a hell of a time remembering the girl’s name. Until he read the ticker tape running across the bottom of the screen.
And damn near spit out his beer.
Brett leaned in for a second read:
Bethany Stone, daughter of Dirk Stone and heiress to the Stone Golf fortune, was par for the course when she decided to take her family’s endorsement of PGA’s bad-boy cowboy, Brett McGraw, from corporate to private with a single hole in one.
Dirk Stone and Brett’s older brother Cal were golf buddies, which was how Brett landed Stone Golf as his official sponsor. If he lost Stone, he’d lose a good quarter of his revenue and, he was afraid, Cal’s respect. The last thought sent a bunch of shitty emotions rushing over him.
“In every way that counts,” Jace McGraw, Brett’s kid brother and as of late roommate, said sparing a glance at the television before sliding onto the bar stool next to him.
Jace waved over the bartender, a sexy redhead who was all legs and cleavage in a tissue-thin tank, red bra, and golf-bunny tattoo that peeked out when she leaned over the bar, gifting him with an impressive view.
She looked at the screen, back to Brett, and gave a welcoming smile. “My, my, my, mister Brett, that’s a mighty large censored tag you got there.”
Brett flashed his million-dollar spokesman grin and Jace groaned.
“Two beers and a hundred bucks if we get out of here without being noticed,” Jace said, waving her off.
“You got it.” The pretty redhead tucked the bills in her bra and walked away, hips swaying as if she knew he was watching. And he was. So was Jace. Although Brett was looking more out of habit than interest, which was something he’d had a hard time mustering up lately. Being wanted for his drive, on
off the course, was starting to get old.
“I was hoping to get here before it hit the networks,” Jace said.
Brett looked around the bar, noticing all eyes were on him. Especially the fluttering ones.
Resisting the urge to pull his Stone Golf hat lower, he turned to Jace, tilting his head back slightly to meet his dark gaze. His kid brother was built like a bull, had more tattoos than fingers, and with his buzzed head and bad-ass attitude people often mistook him for an ex-con instead of ex-military with one of the best mechanical minds in professional racing. Rather,
been in racing, until some journalist, looking for dirt on Brett, exposed Jace’s past.
“You could have at least given me a heads up.”
“You’re lucky I didn’t just give them your location myself. Hell, Brett, I haven’t even been able to piss without some dill-rod shoving a camera in my face.”
“My place is about as bad,” a voice said from behind. Brett didn’t have to turn to see who it was.
Cal sank down onto a stool on the other side of Brett, his shoulders shoving and his elbows jabbing, pressing all his older-brother bullshit into Brett’s space. His brothers were range-tough, bad-ass, and overprotective as hell. And Brett couldn’t help but grin because, man, he was glad to see them. Cal and Jace were the only two people in the world who had his back, no matter what.
“Any idea how bad this will get?” Jace asked.
“Not sure what the fallout will be yet,” Cal said, picking up Brett’s beer as though he wasn’t sitting right there. “He needs to lie low and disappear for a couple of months.”
The media had been hounding Brett for years, ever since he won his first Masters at twenty-three. This story, Brett’s gut screamed, felt different.
“What about Illinois?” Jace asked.
Cal drained the beer. “I think he should skip Illinois.”
“The John Deere Classic? They’re one of my biggest sponsors. I’m already on the roster. Hell, my face is on the fucking ad. It doesn’t get more southern than a tractor, Cal. And McGraws don’t hide.”
Jace went on as if Brett hadn’t even spoken. “What about the playoffs?”
“He’s done well enough in the first part of the year. Even if he skips June and July he should still have enough points to make it into the FedEx Cup,” Cal said, looking disappointed as hell.
“Wait! You want me to lie low until the end of August? That’s ten weeks!”
Not gonna happen
. The last few months Brett’s focus had been shit and he didn’t know why. There wasn’t any one thing he could point to, he just felt indifferent—about everything. Not a good place to be. But if he stood a chance at taking the FedEx Cup this year, he needed to be on top of his game. He needed a win in Illinois.
“Yeah, ten weeks, playboy,” Jace said. “Time for the sponsors to settle down and the news to move on to someone or something else.”
“Hold up. You are all acting like you’ve never had a wild one-nighter. She was ready, I was horny, and the rest of it is none of your damn business.”
“Actually, when Grandma Hattie started playing the video for her Bible group, in my living room, it became my business.” Cal’s mouth turned up a little at the edge.
Brett tugged his hat down this time, wishing he could crawl right into it. He hadn’t done anything wrong, but Grandma Hattie had been like a mama to him and his brothers. After his parents had died, she’d stepped in and singlehandedly raised all three of them. Not an easy task, since Brett and his brothers were a handful.