Hello darlings! Guess what? THE OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY WON!!! WHEE!!! Okay. So, since I added that … let’s go back to the main attraction – Carly Phillips! (Also I know Carly’s daughter goes to another B1G school so hopefully she doesn’t begrudge me celebrating a win within the conference…) ANYWAY. It’s the second Tuesday of 2015! How did that happen?!
Carly Phillips is one of the most fabulous, nicest authors – and person in general – if you ever get the chance to meet her at a conference, do! I’m very excited to have an exclusive excerpt of her newest release Dare to Touch which is officially available today! Enjoy!
Olivia Dare, executive director of the Miami Thunder, and team travel director, Dylan Rhodes share more than just a passion for football–their chemistry is explosive and their feelings for each other are intense. But Olivia is wary of any man getting too close. Given her background – a near-bigamist dad and an ex-boyfriend who merely enforced her lack of priority in his life – Olivia fears being hurt again but she can’t resist embarking upon a passionate affair with Dylan, even as she holds part of herself back.
Dylan isn’t a man who does anything half way. Once he decides to pursue Olivia, he goes all in. When the Pro-Bowl takes them to the desert oasis of Arizona, Dylan is determined to make sure their time together isn’t all business. What happens while at the luxury resort is life altering but when Olivia admits her deepest pain, will Dylan be able to prove he’s a man with staying power? Or will Olivia be disappointed again, this time by the most important man in her life?
Olivia rushed home from work and hurried to shower and get ready before Dylan arrived. She loosely braided her hair, letting it fall over one shoulder, added minimal but necessary makeup, and changed into the fifth outfit she’d tried on.
She hadn’t planned on putting so much angst into getting ready for Dylan, but she couldn’t decide on what was appropriate. The jeans showed she didn’t care, which just wasn’t true. Same for her cute, favorite pair of sweats. A skirt was too much like what she wore in the office, and she couldn’t feel flirty and sexy in one. She finally chose an easy sundress with thin straps and a floaty feel to the body and where it hit her mid-calf. Casual but pretty. She liked it.
Finally ready with a few minutes to spare, Olivia walked into the kitchen to find her sister standing at the sink, finishing up rinsing off a glass.
Avery turned, looked Olivia over, and grinned. “You look hot.”
“Thanks. And you look comfortable,” Olivia said of her sister’s baggy gray sweats and a light blue tee shirt. She’d pulled her dark hair into a messy ponytail.
“Well, I think you chose well.” Avery, who loved picking out clothes and makeup, looked Olivia over again, approval in her gaze.
“I just picked out something casual.”
“You mean if I went into your closet, there wouldn’t be a pile of tried-on clothing on the floor?” she asked knowingly.
Olivia ignored her and opened the refrigerator, looking to see what kind of white wine they had chilling. She pulled out a chardonnay.
When she turned around, she found her sister hadn’t disappeared. She still stood there grinning like a fool.
“Okay, out with it. What’s put that goofy smile on your face?”
Avery laughed. “I was just thinking about how you told me Dylan insisted he was coming over for dinner and ran roughshod over you when you said no. Almost makes me want to applaud him for not putting up with your shit.”
“What shit would that be?” Olivia asked. “I mean, really. Name one woman who thinks her man smelling like another female is okay.”
“Aha! You called Dylan your man.”
She rolled her eyes. “That was just a figure of speech. And you didn’t answer the question.”
Avery grew more serious, her smile gone now. “No sane woman would put up with it.”
They both knew their mother’s experience clouded their judgment in all things.
“That’s true,” Avery said. “If the other woman were a threat. He assured you she’s not.”
“Famous last words,” Olivia muttered.
“Maybe not. So what’s he bringing for dinner?” her sister asked.
“Why do you care? You won’t be here, remember?”
Because when she’d come home and explained her evening plans, she’d asked Avery if she’d disappear for a little while. Being a good sister, she’d agreed.
“I know. I just want to be here when he arrives. You know, shake his hand, give him the evil eye, and make sure he brings you home on time. Or in this case, leaves at a decent hour.” She wiggled her eyebrows at her own joke.
She had always been the more lighthearted, easier-going sister. Even after being tapped as a bone marrow transplant for the half sister they’d just learned they had, Avery had never lost her sense of humor. Olivia admired that in her sister. She didn’t let life get to her as much as Olivia did. No, that wasn’t right. Avery didn’t show it as much as Olivia. She hadn’t built her walls as high, even though they both had good reason.
“I want the best for you, and I happen to like Dylan.” Avery looked Olivia over from head to toe. “Can I give you some sisterly advice?”
“On dating? You’re younger than me.”
Avery rolled her eyes. “I’m also wiser. Look, go for it. Have fun for once in your life.”
Had Avery been talking to Riley about her? Both of them seemed to feel the same way. Even though the last time Olivia had let loose and had fun, when she hadn’t over-thought, she’d paid a huge price.
“Don’t go there. Just don’t.” Avery touched her hand, bringing her out of her memories. “Enjoy tonight. Enjoy Dylan. I’m sleeping at Ian and Riley’s. I’m going to babysit my niece so the tired parents can spend time alone. In other words, don’t wait up. Or expect me back. I’ll see you after work tomorrow.”
As if on cue, a knock sounded at the door. “Perfect timing!” Avery picked up her packed duffle on her way to the door. “Do you want to make a grand entrance?”
Olivia gritted her teeth. “Go away, little sister.”
Avery grinned and opened the door. “Dylan! What a nice surprise. Oh! Let me take some of those.”
Before Avery could drop her bag, Olivia rushed forward. “I’ve got them.” She took some of the bags out of Dylan’s arms, allowing her sister to finally head out the door.
Leaving her alone with Dylan. He’d changed from his work clothes of pressed pants and collared shirt into a pair of worn jeans and a navy polo tee. She caught a glimpse of his fine ass as he walked to her kitchen with his armful of bags.
He placed them on the counter and turned. “How’s it going, sunshine?”
Her hand immediately went to the pendant and he grinned. “It’s going.”
“You look gorgeous.”
She felt herself blush. “Thank you. You look pretty good yourself.” His arms were muscular from time in the gym, and his skin was tanned a warm golden color. His shirt revealed a sexy hint of hair on his chest and that same tanned flesh. Her mouth watered, and she wondered what he’d taste like if she gave him a slow lick from the end of the V in his shirt up the strong column of his neck.
She shivered at the thought.
“You okay?” He’d caught her staring, and a knowing smirk lifted his lips.
God. She nodded. “What’s for dinner?”
“Arturo’s. The best Italian around.” He proceeded to pull out a variety of tins with aromas that smelled heavenly, transferring them to dishes she provided.
They worked well together in the kitchen and settled in to eat. The meal passed quickly, and they drank a good amount of the chardonnay she’d served. They discussed work and some of the changes to his job since Riley, his assistant, had cut back after the birth of her daughter. They talked about football and how frustrated the entire team and management were that they’d fumbled and lost the final game that would have led them to the Super Bowl.
“I am so full,” she said when she couldn’t eat another bite. She looked at the table with all the remaining food.
He’d brought them so many options — chicken parm and pasta dishes, some that she knew the names of, others that were chef’s specials. There was no way they could eat everything, so she’d settled for sampling each. “Everything was delicious, Dylan. Thank you.”
“My pleasure.” He smiled, and the simple act lit her up inside.
Her stomach rolled like a teenager with her first crush. And her sex pulsed, a distinct reminder that she was a woman sitting across from an extremely attractive man who wanted her — and was willing to pull out all the stops to get his way. She was drawn to him on so many levels.
He was smart. He did his job well. He loved football. And he’d set his sights on her. She was attracted to him beyond reason, and this extravagant meal had simply shown her another side of his persistent personality. To her surprise, she couldn’t say she minded being the recipient of all this attention. But the idea of a relationship between them still scared her. More like the idea of a relationship that would ultimately end did.
She picked up one of the dishes still overloaded with food. “I’ll wrap these up for you so you can take them home and freeze them,” she said, rising from her seat. She might not be able to escape from her desire for Dylan, but she could keep busy and get out of her own head.
“You keep the leftovers. You can defrost one after a long day.” He winked at her and stood, then proceeded to help her clean up and freeze the leftovers.
He was making it very difficult not to enjoy and appreciate his thoughtfulness.
“Thanks for helping me. You really didn’t have to.”
He shrugged. “I wanted to.” He leaned against the now-closed dishwasher.
“Well, your mother must have raised you right.”
“She didn’t raise me at all,” he bit out, the harsh tone of voice catching her off guard. He’d been so easygoing all night.
She swallowed hard. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hit a nerve.”
He shook his head and swore under his breath. “You had no way of knowing. She took off on us right after my sister, Callie, graduated high school. I still had another two years left. But she was barely around before that. My sister and I pretty much made do on our own.”
Wow. That was unexpected. And so opposite of how she’d been raised. In a big, fancy house with everything she’d ever wanted. A father who ran a hotel empire and traveled constantly — for business, she’d thought — but she’d had her mother and her siblings to support her. Olivia was so close to her own mother she couldn’t imagine getting through the hard parts of her life without her mother’s sage advice and wisdom.
She glanced at him from beneath her lashes. His expression had shuttered, his jaw tensed. Her heart hurt for the little boy who’d clearly been forced to make do.
“What about your father?” she asked hesitantly.
“Didn’t know him. My mother used to say she thought Callie and I had different fathers, and from the looks of us, I’d say she was right.”
“She didn’t know for sure?” Olivia asked, her voice rising with her shock and outrage.
He raised one shoulder. “Men came and went.” The disgust in his voice was obvious.
“How did you … well, end up being you? You got a scholarship and now a great job.” With no adult in the house, who’d cared enough to give him direction or love?
He shrugged, but his discomfort was obvious. “Callie picked up the slack around the apartment, and I worked as soon as I was old enough to get a job. Paid under the table delivering groceries, but it was something. She made sure I did my homework, and I wanted to succeed and make money so I could take care of her for a change.”
“Oh, Dylan. You two are lucky to have had each other.”
“Now that I agree with.” He shook his head and, with the motion, seemed to rid himself of the memories and the mood. “So how about dessert?”
She wasn’t about to argue the change of subject. “What do you have?”
“Cannoli.” He walked over to the refrigerator and grabbed the pastry box he’d put inside.
“My favorite dessert in the entire world! Now I’m going to have to make room. And definitely fit in a workout tomorrow.”
He grunted at that. “What a coincidence. Cannoli is my favorite dessert too.”
“Coffee?” she asked, gesturing to the one-cup brewer.
He shook his head. “No thanks.
She opened the cabinet to pull out plates. “Leave it. Cannoli is best from the box.”
She shrugged. “If you say so.”
They returned to their seats around the table, the open box of Italian pastries in the center. Dylan still seemed quiet, something she attributed to the conversation about his childhood. She decided a change of subject was in order.
“So you’re flying to Arizona this Wednesday,” she said. The Pro Bowl was a week from this Sunday.
“I am.” His eyes lit up at the thought.
The Thunder had four players voted in this year, Marcus Bigsby included. Those playing usually flew in a week or so early and spent quality time at the resort. The guys with families savored the opportunity for a pregame vacation. Arriving on Wednesday would give Dylan a chance to adjust to the time zone change before the planned activities began on Friday night. And he’d be available to monitor player interviews earlier in the day.
He nodded. “I’ll have time to enjoy myself a little before the insanity starts.”
“Starting with a five-hour flight. But it is Arizona, you lucky dog.”
“Have you ever been there?” he asked.
She shook her head. “Maybe someday. I heard the spas in both Phoenix and Scottsdale are amazing.”
“I know I’d love to see you in a bikini,” he said all too frankly, taking her right back to being on the fine edge of desire.
With all the serious talk about his past, she’d forgotten he was determined to both charm and seduce her. The molten look in his eyes, the heat and need all for her, was a heady feeling.
“Come here.” He crooked his finger her way.
Frowning, she stood and walked over. He’d turned his chair so he was facing her as she approached. As soon as she came within reach, he pulled her onto his lap.
She squirmed uncomfortably but stilled when she felt his erection beneath her thighs.
“Good idea,” he said in a roughened voice. He smoothed her hair off her cheek, and his fingers lingered, tracing the line of her jaw, gliding down her neck and up again. Arousal became a living, breathing thing inside her.
“Now stop fighting me and let’s talk,” he said, back to taking charge.
Really? How did he expect her to concentrate with his hard length pressing into her, causing her sex to pulse and swell?
She swallowed hard. She had two choices. Ask him to leave or go along with what he had planned.
Not much of a choice.
“Okay. What do you want to talk about?”
He continued to leisurely caress her cheek. “I’m sure you’ve dated before.”
“Of course I have!”
He laughed at her indignant tone, causing her to flush with embarrassment. Her cheeks were probably flaming. “Your point?” she asked.
“Do you give every man who wants to be with you this hard a time?”
She blew out a long breath, understanding now where he was going with this conversation. “No.”
“Why me then?” Dylan asked, but in his gut, he already knew the answer. He just wanted to hear Olivia admit what was going on inside her head so they could deal with it and put it behind them, once and for all. If she stopped fighting herself, there was so much for them to explore.
So what’d you think? 😀 Everyone remember to wish Carly happy release day today. You can buy your copy of Dare to Touch here!