Emma Lawrence is used to doing everything for everyone else—putting herself last. While celebrating her thirtieth birthday with her girlfriends, Emma does something totally out of character, something just for her. She takes hottie, Will Calonen, home.
Will isn’t looking for a serious relationship. Hell, right now, he isn’t looking for a casual one. Then Emma stumbles into his life. He doesn’t know how the sexy brunette will fit into plans, but he knows one thing—he’s not about to let her stumble out of his life.
As their relationship intensifies, Emma learns just how sweet—and satisfying—having her way with Will can be. But when her family begins placing demands on her, will he run for the hills...or defend his woman and help her stand up for herself?
Here is an excerpt -
“Here’s to the big three-oh.”
Emma Lawrence glanced around the table at her friends, her gaze finally landing on Lynn Michaels, who held up her glass in a toast. “God, don’t remind me.”
“We’re here celebrating your birthday,” Lynn said pointedly. “How can I not bring up the momentous occasion?”
Emma chuckled and sipped from the cold beer she held. “Happy birthday is sufficient. We don’t need to mention which one, thank you very much.”
“Oh, come on,” their friend, Ana Harris, chimed in, taking a break from checking out the men in the bar. “Thirty isn’t old. We’re in the prime of our lives, sweetie. Enjoy it. I know I am.” She wiggled her eyebrows.
Shaking her head, Emma couldn’t hold back her grin. Not for the first time, she wished she had a fraction of her friends’ confidence. They seemed to know exactly what they wanted and went after it without hesitation or doubts. While she, on the other hand, stumbled through life, just trying to figure out what to do day by day. Hour by hour, some days.
“And,” Lynn drawled, “you’re all moved into your new house. Another reason to celebrate.”
“While I do miss having you as a roomie, I’m absolutely thrilled for you.” Ana nudged Emma with her shoulder. “Even if your family isn’t.”
Emma closed her eyes briefly then met her friend’s gaze. “Ana.”
“What? I’m just saying that it’s pretty shitty of them to give you hard time about buying a house. Especially, since you haven’t lived on the compound for years.”
“God, do you have to call it that?” Emma cringed.
“Oh I’m sorry. The estate in which your father and your brothers and their families all reside. Is that better?” Ana batted her eyes playfully.
Before Emma could respond, Lynn spoke. “Did you tell any of your sibs to come tonight?”
“I let them know about it, but Nick’s out of town. Tom and Mark couldn’t find sitters so they won’t be coming—what?” she asked when both friends let out snorts.
“Tom and Mark couldn’t come because their go-to-sitter is the guest of honor,” Ana pointed out.
“Enough,” she said with a sigh. “Let’s not do the whole criticize-Emma-for-being-a-wimp thing. Not tonight. Please.”
“Darlin’, we’re not criticizing you. It’s that family of yours,” Lynn pointed out.
Emma didn’t say anything. She just took another drink and glanced around the crowded bar, waiting to see if they’d drop the subject.
Ana sighed. “Okay, so the older bros aren’t coming. What about Matt?”
“Yeah. He said he’d stop by if he could.”
“Matt, huh?” Lynn sat up straighter and glanced toward the door. “Nice.”
Emma hid a smile by taking another sip of beer. Lynn had a thing for her little brother but refused to admit it because of the age difference. Though Emma didn’t see why a few years should be a problem and loved to watch her friend and brother circle each other. She often wondered who’d make the first move. She had her money on Lynn, but Ana and their friend Hannah thought it’d be Matt. So far though, nothing.
“So,” Ana drawled, “what are your plans now, Em?”
Lynn and Ana looked at each other and sighed before Lynn spoke up. “You have your own house now. You’re on your own. What are your plans? Lord knows you don’t have to work, but what are you going to do with your time? Don’t tell me you’re going to start hosting those charity things and all that.”
“No. I’ll leave that to my eager sisters-in-law, thank you very much.” She thought for a moment. Honestly, her family kept her busy enough; they were a full time job on their own. She knew she was lucky not to need a job for money, but she wasn’t one to sit idle. Now, if she could just figure out what she wanted to be when she grew up. “I don’t really know. I guess I’ll fix the house up and go from there.”
“What you need to do is find a man and get laid, girl,” Ana said with a pointed look.
“Please tell me I didn’t just hear that remark aimed at my sister.”
Emma jumped out of her seat and hugged her brother. “Matt! I’m so glad you made it.” She sat back down and gestured at the table. “Sit.”
It didn’t escape her notice that he chose the chair next to Lynn.
“Hello, ladies. I ask that all talk of my sister’s sex life cease now.”
“Women have needs too, Matt,” Lynn purred, leaning closer to him.
“I’m well aware of that, but in my happy little world, my sister doesn’t. No offense, Em.” He reached over, snagged her beer and took a swig.
“None taken.” She pulled the bottle from his grasp. “Get your own.”
“I’ll go get us another round,” Ana volunteered and headed for the bar, beaming at the men she passed on her way.
“So, Ms. Homeowner, feel good to be out on your own?” Matt grinned.
“Damned straight it does.”
“Has Dad been by to check out the new digs?”
“Yeah, and grumbled the whole time about my coming back home.” She laughed.
“Yeah, well, he’s more protective of you. You being the baby girl and all; he wants you where he can take care of you.” He leaned across the table and ruffled her hair playfully.
Emma shoved his hand aside and rolled her eyes. Yeah, having four brothers, three of them older, and being the only girl made for an interesting and stifling childhood. Whereas her brothers ran free. Well, most of them were pretty good. Kinda boring in Emma’s opinion. But Matt, well, he took great joy in shocking their dad and keeping him guessing. Hence, the longer hair, the tattoos, and she knew there were piercings besides the ones on his ear but didn’t want to know the specifics on those. Yet, her dad had taken that all in stride, but wigged out when she pierced her ears and dyed her hair. Once! And it hadn’t even been permanent!
“Round of shots, everyone!” Ana announced, setting a tray with filled shot glasses, lime wedges and salt shakers on the table.
“My kinda lady.” Matt grinned, and Emma noticed Lynn’s slight frown. “Hey, you guys aren’t driving, are you?”
“No, we took a cab,” Ana informed happily.
Emma licked her hand, sprinkled on the salt and licked it off, and threw the shot back. She screwed up her face as it burned its way down. Oh yeah, baby.
The rest of them had just finished their shots when Hannah walked up to the table.
“Started the party without me, huh?”
“Glad you could make it.” Emma hugged her friend.
“Ooh, I’ll go get some more.” Ana jumped up and headed for the bar, once again.
Hannah handed Emma a decorative bag as she sat. “Here. Happy birthday, girl.”
“Oh sure, make me look bad,” Matt teased. “I didn’t bring her present with me.”
Hannah flipped her long black hair over her shoulder. “Not my fault, and, for the record, y’all don’t need me to look bad.”
Emma chuckled and peered in the bag. “Oh, cool.” She pulled out one of the small fairy figurines. She collected them and was touched that Hannah remembered. “Thanks.”
“You’re welcome. So what’d I miss?”
“Not much. Harping on my family. Ana ogling the men. You know, the usual.”
“You forgot your need to get laid,” Lynn interjected.
Matt groaned and banged his head on the tabletop. “Stop it, please.”
“Well it’s true. It’s been quite a dry spell for her, and that’s not a good thing.” Lynn grinned at Hannah, then Emma.
“Stop bugging Matt.” Emma patted her brother’s hand. “Don’t worry. In the unlikely event that I do get some, I won’t give you a play-by-play.”
He straightened up. “Gee, thanks, sis.”
“And here we go.” Ana plopped down another tray. “Don’t worry, Hannah, I got you a cola.”
“Thanks.” She grabbed it and took a long drink. “Drink up, my friends, so I can make fun of your drunk asses.”
Laughing, the group lifted their glasses in her direction. Sometime later, Emma lost track of just how many drinks she had consumed. She sighed as the warm, fuzzy, head-wrapped-in-cotton feeling enveloped her.
“You know,” she said, pointing at her friends, “it’s not a bad thing to help family out.”
“No, it’s not,” her brother agreed.
“It is when they take advantage of it.” Lynn shoved at him, missing and nearly falling in his lap. “Not so much you, Matt, but the rest of them totally take advantage of her. It’s not right.”
“Do you really think they do?” he asked, his forehead crinkling as he thought about it.
“Yes,” all three of Emma’s friends chimed together.
Emma sighed. It was hard to be annoyed with them. For one thing, they had her best interests at heart. For another, they were kinda right.
“I’m gonna say no.” She nodded emphatically. “The next time they ask me to watch the kids or to do something when I already have plans, the answer is no… Well, unless it’s an emergency.”
“A real emergency, Emma. Not an oh-dear-I-have-a-hangnail-and-have-to-go-get-a-manicure one,” Ana lectured.
“Right and…” Lynn trailed off as she stared past Emma toward the bar.
“What?” Emma turned around to see what her friend was looking at.
“I wonder what he’s doing here,” she murmured, then shook her head. “Sorry. You remember Will Calonen from school, right, Hannah?”
“Yeah.” Hannah glanced over. “My cousin works at his family’s restaurant, so I’ve seen him around. What’s the big deal with him being here?”
Lynn shrugged. “Just haven’t see him here before, that’s all.”
“Which one is he?” Emma questioned.
“Standing at the end of the bar.” Hannah pointed. “Dark brown hair. Tall. Black pants and white shirt.”
Emma’s breath left in a whoosh when her gaze landed on him. Wow, he was a hottie hot guy. Damn, she’d missed out going to that all girls’ school. Thanks a lot, Dad.
“Whew. Wet panty alert,” Ana piped in.
Matt groaned again, but Emma couldn’t disagree. The man inspired some feelings in the downstairs department, that’s for sure.
“Soooo,” Matt said slowly, “you have a thing for this Will guy?”
Emma turned back around and had to hold back a giggle. Her brother was staring Lynn down.
“No!” she protested. “Just surprised to see him, that’s all.”
“Okay.” Satisfied with that, he rose and moved next to his sister. He bent at the waist, hand on her shoulder. “Gotta run. You okay? Call a cab or let Hannah drive you home, all right?”
“I will.” She leaned over and pecked him on the cheek. “Thanks for putting up with us girls tonight.”
Matt straightened and glanced around the table, his gaze finally resting on Lynn. “Anytime.” With that, he walked out.
“So are you ever going to jump the poor man or what?” Ana asked.
“So, I wonder what Will’s been up to.” Apparently, Lynn was going to ignore the question.
“Why don’t you go ask him?” Emma focused on the man again.
“Nah, we didn’t run in the same circle. He probably wouldn’t even know who I was. So, ladies, are we still on for shopping tomorrow?”
The conversation dimmed around her as Emma stared at Will. She shifted in her chair as she just drank him in. From his dark, wavy hair down to his black shoes. As she decided that he definitely filled out his pants nicely—at least from behind—he turned.
Emma’s mouth suddenly went dry and her stomach quivered. Unable to look away, she met his gaze full on. After a moment—or what felt like an eternity to her—the corner of his mouth quirked up into a slight smile. Oh God, stop staring like an idiot.
Check it out over at Resplendence!