Today we’ve got an exclusive excerpt from Carina Press author Christi Barth. We’re going back to a slightly more regular schedule. Isn’t that exciting?
Hopeless romantic Ivy Rhodes
anti-Cupid Bennett Westcott
request the pleasure of your company for
their disaster of a courtship
Wedding planner Ivy Rhodes is the best in the business, and she’s not about to let a personal problem stop her from getting ahead. So when she gets an offer to star in the reality TV show Planning for Love, it doesn’t matter that the show’s videographer happens to be a recent—and heartbreaking—one-night stand.
Bennett Westcott can admit that he didn’t handle his encounter with Ivy very well. But looking at her beautiful smile—and, okay, great body—through the lens of a camera every day? He can’t be faulted for suggesting they have a little no-strings fun.
The more time Bennett and Ivy spend together, the more he realizes that Ivy isn’t the wedding-crazed bridezilla he’d imagined. But if he doesn’t trust himself to make a relationship last, how can he convince Ivy to give him another chance?
“Bennett Westcott, you’re the bravest man I know.”
Ben took a long sip of his wine. Then another. By the fourth sip, Ivy wondered if she should try matching him drink for drink. Clearly Sam had been right on the money when he begged her not to say anything to Ben. She’d assumed it to be a guy thing, a way to allow him to keep his emotions under lock and key. But Ivy couldn’t keep her admiration to herself. Even went so far as to assume Ben would be elated to finally discuss the true version of the day that turned him into a pariah. As the chasm of silence widened, Ivy began to wonder if she’d managed to set a record for quickest ruined date ever.
With the harshness of fingernails down a chalkboard, the scrape of metal chair legs against concrete rent the air. Ben shoved back, tossing his napkin on the table as he stood. He sucked in a deep breath, expanding his already wide chest. Then he scrubbed his hand from his forehead all the way down to the nape of his neck. Still staring out at the lights twinkling on block by block across the city skyline.
“Trust me when I say I’m about as far away from brave as this planet is from Pluto—all I do is make it through the day.” Finally, he directed his gaze straight at Ivy. “But I’m honored and humbled you think so. It goes a long way toward mending the tattered shreds left of my so-called pride.”
Ben bent from the waist to drop a soft kiss in the middle of her forehead. He pulled back, looked at her with those slice of summer sky eyes. Ivy held her breath, afraid the smallest puff of air would break the cobweb of intensity spinning ever wider between them.
“Damn. I was planning to save this for the fireworks.”
“Save what?” She didn’t understand, and she almost didn’t care. Who needed the power of cognitive thought when a handsome man held you tight in the unwavering tractor beam of his eyes? “What fireworks?”
“Gib told me there’d be fireworks in about an hour. Because of Memorial Day. It’s why I brought you here—for the view.”
Her heart flipped. Turned right around in a somersault like she used to do down the grassy slope at her grandparents’ house.
“On the other hand, why should I wait for the City of Chicago to light up the sky?” He framed her face with those big, wide palms, tilted her head back. “Let’s make our own fireworks.”
Before she could savor the sexy promise in his words, Ben kissed her. A gentle touch for the space of a heartbeat—well, three beats at the rate Ivy’s heart raced—and then he sank into her mouth, as if it were a feather pillow to cradle him. Firm, deep kisses that somehow contained the richness of melted chocolate, the kick of a strong margarita, and the undeniable allure she’d succumbed to all those months before.
The earth tilted on its axis. No, it was Ben bracing his hand on the back of her chair, tipping it back for a better angle. Her feet dangled in the air. She hooked them around the chair legs in an attempt to anchor herself. Silly, really. The floor had dropped out from under her the minute his tongue slipped in between her lips, tasting, questing. And she knew without a doubt those strong arms wouldn’t let her fall.
Her hands reached out to feel them, to caress the tight, corded steel beneath his jacket. A quiver grew deep in her core at discovering she couldn’t wrap her hands all the way around his biceps. Muscles like that belonged to a broadsword-wielding knight. One who carried her off on a white horse while the crowd cheered.
The crowd cheered. It wasn’t just one of her flights of fancy. Ivy pulled her concentration from where it lay, writhing, somewhere close to the edge of her red lace panties. The roof deck had erupted into applause, catcalls and whistles. Her eyes flew open. She tapped her toe against Ben’s calf, wrenching out of the lip lock.
“We’ve got an audience.”
Undeterred, he nuzzled just below her ear. “Put on a good enough show, maybe we’ll get a free meal out of it.”
Ivy kicked once more, this time aiming the hard point of her sandal against his shin. But she made sure to let the laughter in her throat burble through. “Enough.”
With a gentle tap he lowered the chair to the ground. Then he ran the side of his thumb across her lower lip, setting off one last chain of sparklers in her veins. “Nope. Nowhere close.”
For a man who eschewed romance, he sure managed to say the right things. While Ben straightened his coat and sat back down, Ivy let her brain catch up to her speeding pulse. What the heck just happened? Hadn’t she just spent two endless months trying to get Ben out of her system? To no avail?
It was one thing to accept his invitation to dinner, to try and work through the white hot…whatever that flared through her system every time she looked at him. She’d banked on a couple hours of basic conversation in a noisy restaurant to lay a groundwork of knowledge about what made Bennett Westcott tick. Her master plan for tonight only played out through the end of dinner. A simple dinner between colleagues. With a side order of chemistry sizzling loud enough to drown out the shouts of Opa as a waiter walked past with a platter of flaming saganaki cheese held aloft.
You can read an additional excerpt here.
Bio: Christi Barth earned a Masters degree in vocal performance and embarked upon a career on the stage. A love of romance then drew her to wedding planning. Ultimately she succumbed to her lifelong love of books and now writes contemporary romance. Christi lives in Maryland with her husband.
So what’d you think? Does this sound like your kind of romance? P.S. She’s doing a giveaway!! 😀