Publication date: March 6th 2013
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult, Romance
A sequel to the Amazon bestselling romance, Preservation, told from Ryan’s point of view.
Old Habits Die Hard.
Ryan Campbell is not only leaving his title of Professor behind to move on to bigger and better things at Simon and Warden Publishing, he’s also become Seattle’s rising literary star. Sitting on the overwhelming cusp of newfound fame, he learns soon enough that being popular has its downside.
Attracted to the buzz surrounding his new career, former lovers begin to creep back into his life, and potential ones emerge with enticing advances. While he works to juggle reserved, yet stressful, wedding plans with Kate and his new public image, he has enough to manage without worrying about Carter and Dean—Kate’s loveable albeit eccentric friends—and their latest shenanigans.
Surrounded by a lifestyle that includes temptation at every turn, Ryan finds himself immersed in a world full of scandal and lies, where his oldest weaknesses thrive and his ghosts return to haunt him. Questioning whether his life with Kate is his best path, he must discover if he’s still capable of being the man he aspired to be when she first became his, or if happily ever after is only an illusion.
She unlocked the door and glared at me, waiting for me to move out of her way. I stepped back with a smartass bow, and she quickly stomped past me into the dim apartment. She chucked her bag on the hallway table and yanked her jewelry off, forcefully tossing it onto the hall table without a word, the clunk sound echoing throughout the room.
I was right behind her, throwing my jacket on top of her jewelry. “Oh, what, am I getting the silent treatment now?”
“You’re not getting anything.”
Oooohhh, damn. I saw where this was going. “You sure about that?” I took her by the elbow and spun her toward me, then moved forward and pressed her back against the hallway wall, my hands on either side of her head. “You know what you do to me when you’re angry,” I breathed harshly, my mouth hovering near her lips. “And you know damn well you wanna give me something.”
She moistened her lips, glaring up at me like she wanted to smack me. Hell, I wanted her to. I loved her when she was like this. “You’re completely overreacting, and I’m not putting up with your bullshit.”
“Did you like it? Did you like him touching you like that?”
“What are you talking about, you infuriating man?!”
“His hand on your back at the bar. Why didn’t you push him away?”
“See? Overreacting!” One of her hands gestured wildly and then landed in a smack at her side.
I pressed harder against her, taking her jaw in my hand. “How do you expect me to react when I show up to meet you for dinner to find some asshole with his hands on you?”
She squirmed against me, her nostrils flaring in frustration, but I could tell she was losing the battle. She wanted me, and I could feel it in the way her hardened nipples brushed against my chest and the way her cheeks warmed. Even in the dim light, I could see the red blush I loved, tingeing her cheekbones. She loved the fight just as much as I did, and damn if she didn’t miss me as much as I missed her. “It wasn’t like that, Ryan. But you won’t listen to me, which is why I won’t even bother to discuss it. You just flew across the world to see me, so excuse me if bickering over something so petty isn’t at the top of my list of priorities at the moment.”
“He was touching you. The same guy I heard you with on the phone that night. He wants you.”
“So what if he does? What are you going to do about it?” She gritted her teeth and her jaw muscles clenched beneath my fingers. “You’re around women…beautiful women all the time now. I saw the news this morning, too. Saw the same tabloid story Will was talking about. This is about to be our life—my life—24 hours a day, seven days a week from now on. And you freak out over one co-worker—who I’ll never see again after June, thank you very much—and his harmless crush?!” Suddenly her hands grasped my shoulders and she shoved me back, pinning me to the opposite wall. Her fingers dug into the thin material of my shirt, her eyes fiery lava. “I should be the one interrogating you, Mr. I Knocked Some Brunette Up. You’re being ridiculous!”
“It’s a bullshit story, and you know it.”
“Do I? You were with many women before me, Ryan. If you want me to take you at your word and trust your claim, then I expect the same courtesy.”
“This guy obviously feels comfortable enough to put his hands on you. Was that the first time, what I saw tonight?” I knocked her hands from my shoulders and pinned them behind her, lunging forward to spin her around again so she was facing the wall and at my mercy. I wrenched her arms tighter behind her, pressing my erection into the small of her back. “Tell me, Kate. Was that the first time he touched you?”
“Yes, you stubborn jackass!” She whimpered when I rocked against her, her eyelids fluttering shut. Her cheek was smashed against the wall, head facing to the side.
I wanted to lick every inch of her.
I settled for leaning in and biting her earlobe. She yelped, eyelids snapping open wide. “You swear it.”
“He flirts with me, that’s all.”
I bit her ear again and growled. “Wrong answer, Kate.”
“Is there ever a right answer with you, Ryan?”
“Turn around and get on your knees.”
“Like hell!” she scoffed. “You get on your damn knees.”
Fuck, she was playing with fire. “Tempting, but I need to remind you who you belong to.”
A defiant smile graced her lips. “I bet Will would get on his knees.”
She knew she had me.
My entire body went rigid, and I stared at her, momentarily in disbelief. I’m sure it was the exact reaction she was aiming for. She squealed as I pulled her from the wall, keeping her wrists locked tight in my hand, and guided her down the hall into the kitchen area. Just as I was about to bend her over the counter and fuck her senseless, she snaked out of my grip and darted around the small island to reach for the kitchen cabinet.
“Kate…get over here.”
She grabbed a glass from the cabinet, shifting it back and forth between both hands, tongue rolling over her teeth. She was daring me to step closer. “Who I belong to?”
I ripped my tie from my neck, my fingers making quick work of my shirt buttons. “You know what I mean.”
“You don’t own me.”
“No, but you do belong to me.”
The glass she was toying with took flight and whizzed past my head, hitting the wall and shattering behind me. I ducked, shielding myself from the sharp shards. “Shit, Kate! What the hell?”
Another glass flew toward me and I jumped to the left, my eyes following it as it splintered into pieces across the room. “How does it feel, Ryan?” She smiled smugly, turning to the counter to snatch a handful of sugar from the sugar jar next. She hurled the white stuff toward me, sending me into a cloud of sticky sweetness. “When I overreact and throw a tantrum? Frustrating, isn’t it?”
I lurched toward her. She already had a handful of flour now. She was making her way right down the line, from one jar to the next. I threw my arms around her and lifted her against me, then turned and carried her to the counter, dumping her unceremoniously onto the cool tile. She managed to toss the fistful of flour into my face. I wiped it from my eyes and cheeks, staring down at her in utter disbelief—she was laughing at me. Fucking laughing!
Choking on a cloud of flour, I couldn’t control my own laughter. I shook my head and gripped her thigh, jerking her forward so her legs were dangling at my sides. Her giggling softened and she locked gazes with me. I killed the mirth in my voice, although I was sure it was still dancing in my eyes. “Listen to me good, Kate Parker. I never, and I mean never want to hear you use the words ‘Will’ and ‘on his knees’ in the same sentence again.” Kate pressed her lips together in a lame attempt to stifle her irrepressible smile. Then she reared a hand back and smacked me hard across the face.
My jaw dropped.
My fingers reflexively reached to my cheek, feeling the sting and the white powder that covered it. And then there were no more struggles, no more laughs, and no more words. I pulled her forward and my mouth collided with hers. She tore my unbuttoned shirt down my arms and I lifted her ass to drag her panties off. Grabbing me by the back of the neck, she shoved me against her and went straight for my fly. I beat her to it, yanking it down and ramming into her so fast it left my head spinning.
We both cried out from the impact, our bodies joining with a sharp jolt. “Lean back on your hands,” I barked through gritted teeth. She did as she was told—finally—and I scooted her closer to the edge of the counter, then started pumping into her, my fingers splayed wide and tight against her thighs, reveling in the ripping sound that came from the crimson material of her dress. Her head rolled back and her eyes drifted shut in pleasure, the tear at the top of her thigh spreading, revealing more milky skin. She kept her weight on one hand and lifted the other to her breasts, rubbing and circling, drawing a deep groan from her lips. “Keep doing that,” I ordered, watching as she groped her chest.
Keeping a solid grip on her hips as I slammed into her, I pried my eyes from her breasts and bent over to run my tongue up her neck and along her jaw line, squeezing my eyes shut tight when I reached her earlobe. She smelled divine. No vanilla, no heavy perfume—just fucking perfection. Every moan, muscle clench, and ragged breath told me she was mine, and I hers. I continued to punish her with ruthless strokes, filling her ear with hot breath. “You belong to me,” I demanded. “Next time someone touches you, remember you’re my sunrise. Remember this,” I hammered her with one fierce strike, jolting her backward on the counter. She howled, clinging to me as if her life depended on it. “You won’t forget, will you, Kate?”