A Naughty New Year - Roni Loren
Roni wrote her first romance novel at age fifteen when she discovered writing about boys was way easier than actually talking to them. Since then, her flirting skills haven’t improved, but she likes to think her storytelling ability has. If she’s not working on her latest sexy story, you can find her reading, watching reality television, or indulging in her unhealthy addiction to rockstars, er, rock concerts. Yeah, that's it. She is the National Bestselling Author of The Loving on the Edge series from Berkley Heat.
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A Sexy New Year’s Resolution
I love the start of a new year. New possibilities. New goals. Restarting that diet AGAIN. ; ) A lot of people say New Year’s resolutions are silly because we often have abandoned them by Valentine’s Day, but I still think they have some merit. Setting stretch goals is a good thing even if we don’t always hit the mark.
And in my next book, NEED YOU TONIGHT, which releases March 4, the heroine has the same idea. She’s just left a really crappy marriage after finding her husband cheating on her and is ready for a new start. When she left the jerk, he hurled a list of insults at her about her shortcomings and they stuck with her. So for her new year, she made a list of things she wanted to accomplish based on those insults. And this scene is where she’s putting her resolutions into action. Though, she THINKS she’s accomplishing her “learn to cook” item on her list, Kade Vandergriff has another plan and a much more fun item to check off that resolution list for her.
From NEED YOU TONIGHT by Roni Loren (All Rights Reserved, Berkley Publishing Group):
When Tessa walked through the doors of Barcelona, it was like walking through a portal to a world she wasn’t a native of anymore. Soft Spanish music played, the scent of exotic spices drifted through the air, and the saffron-colored walls flickered with the dancing light of candlelit tables. Every detail screamed trendy elegance and money. As did most of the guests sitting at the tables. She could almost see her old self sitting among them, wine glass in hand, diamonds sparkling at her throat, her husband sitting across from her telling her about the latest acquisition he was working on. Anyone looking at them would’ve been envious.
But seeing the image in her mind’s eye now showed a picture that was warped and tarnished. An illusion. The conversation would’ve been one-sided because Tessa had never understood Doug’s business speak. The diamond choker around her neck would’ve probably been a guilt gift he’d given her after one of his affairs. And the wine would’ve been her attempt at getting in the mood for the lackluster sex they might have later that night.
She didn’t miss this world.
And she didn’t miss that woman.
“Hello, ladies, do you have a reservation?” the host asked.
Sam stepped forward. “We’re here for the cooking class.”
“Ah, yes,” he said, his smile welcoming. “Follow me. You’ll be in the banquet room.”
The host led them through the main dining area and then through a short hallway and another set of doors. The banquet room looked much like the other side of the restaurant, but the lights weren’t as low and there were tables set up around the perimeter with cooking equipment and little bowls of ingredients. In the center of the room, there were smaller, more intimate tables where they’d presumably eat their meal after learning how to prepare it. Pitchers of sangria gleamed ruby red on each table. A number of people were already sitting at the small tables, mingling and drinking. The tinkling sounds of nervous, first date laughter mixed in with the music.
Tessa’s stomach did a flip, and she almost turned to leave. Sam put a hand on Tessa’s arm, as if reading her unspoken intention, and guided her forward.
“Don’t chicken out now.”
A man with a clipboard near the entrance grinned brightly. “Welcome to the meet-up ladies. I’m Jim, your event liaison for the night. Names?”
“I’m Samantha Dunbar, and this is Tessa McAllen.”
Jim scanned the clipboard, nodding. “Ms. Dunbar, your perfect match is Cory Heath, table five. He’s already here if you’d like to head over and say hi. We’re letting everyone chat and enjoy their drinks for a few minutes before the class starts. Break the ice, you know?”
“Sure,” Sam said, peeking over at the dark-haired guy at table five, scanning him from head to loafer. “Sounds good.”
But Tessa’s brain snagged. “Wait a second. I thought we were just mingling with everyone?”
Jim smiled. “Oh, no, ma’am. Perfect match is full service. We took the profile you sent us and matched you up with someone compatible for the evening. No use wasting time on people you have nothing in common with, right?”
“The profile I sent in?” Tessa asked, shooting daggers at Sam.
Sam sent her a please-don’t-kill-me look and gave Tessa’s hand a squeeze. “Just try to have a good time, okay? I promise, it’s no big deal. It’ll be fun.”
With that, Sam hurried off toward her “perfect match.” Tessa had to fight hard not to lose it right there. Not only was she going to have to manage a date with a stranger, but said stranger would be under the impression that they’d been matched together. And God only knew what Sam had put in Tessa’s profile. She cringed at the thought.
Jim was scanning his list again, and Tessa smoothed the front of her dress. She hadn’t thought to put much effort into her outfit tonight. This was supposed to be a cooking class after all. So she’d simply stayed in the pale pink blouse and black skirt she’d worn to work. But now she felt plain and out of place. Everyone else had put on their A-game ensemble for date night.
God, why was she even worrying about it? This isn’t a real date. She’d been trained by Doug to look her best at all times because you never knew who you’d run into, and sometimes that old urge was hard to shake. But she wasn’t here to impress anyone. She was here to drink sangria and to learn how to cook That’s it.
The door opened behind her as more people came in.
“Ms. McAllen?” Jim asked, a small frown curving his thin lips as he lifted his gaze from the clipboard. “Do you have your confirmation number with you? You’re not showing on my list.”
“My what?” She automatically put her hand on her purse, but knew she had nothing of the sort in there. “No. My friend set all this up for us both.”
“Hmm.” Jim tapped his pencil on the clipboard. “Well, I’m not showing you on here, which means we don’t have confirmation of your payment. If you’d like to pay the fee now, we can let you stay for the class. Then if you find your confirmation, we’ll refund you. But since you weren’t on the list, we won’t have a match set up for you. You’d just be staying for the cooking portion unless we have any other walk-ins.”
No match sounded like a fantastic idea. Maybe this was a blessing in disguise. “How much is it?”
A gasp escaped her lips. Two hundred dollars? She should’ve expected it, but the number still caught her off guard. And it was a number she couldn’t fund “I’m sorry. I’ll just have to find out what happened to my original fee and do this another time. Maybe I can talk to my friend and see if she has the information.”
He smiled kindly, but she saw it in his eyes. He knew she was bailing because she didn’t have the money. He knew she didn’t belong there. “Of course.”
Shame tried to edge in, heating her cheeks. But she swallowed it back. She would not get teary over missing some stupid cooking class. She took a step to head toward Sam’s table, hoping that even though they were technically party crashers, her friend had some magical confirmation number. But before she could move forward, a warm hand touched her elbow.
“I’ll cover the fee.”
The rich timbre of the man’s voice rolled over Tessa like sun-heated ocean water. She stiffened at the contact and her body’s unexpected visceral reaction.
She spun around, her gaze going up, up, up, and finally colliding with clear blue eyes and a face made for Greek sculpture. Her brain forgot to form words.
“I’d hate for you to miss one of the best meals of your life because of a computer glitch,” the man said, a ghost of a smile touching his lips.
Tessa simply stared back. The way he held her gaze had her thoughts scattering and her brain reaching for some memory she couldn’t quite grab ahold of. She shook her head, breaking the gaze and trying to clear her head. No. This stranger was offering to pay two-hundred dollars for her to eat. She knew how that worked. She’d played that game before. “Really, that’s very kind of you to offer. But I’ll just come back another time.”
He pulled his wallet from his pocket, pulled two crisp bills from it, and handed it to Jim. “I insist. And it’s no problem. I’m sure they’ll pay me back when they find your original reservation.”
Tessa shook her head again, even though her mind was already fast-forwarding and picturing how decadent it would be to sit and sip sangrias with this stranger. But she couldn’t fall into her old habits and let him pay her way. It didn’t matter that he was gorgeous or that he didn’t seem to mind or that he was wearing a watch that said two-hundred dollars was a drop in the bucket for him. “I’m sorry. I can’t take your money.”
Before the stranger could protest, she moved past him and the few people waiting behind them to head for the door. She needed to get out—now. She knew it was ridiculous, but she had the sudden urge to cry, to scream, to pound on something. All she’d wanted tonight was to relax and have a fun girl’s night with Sam. Instead, she’d been reminded of the life she used to have, how feeble her bank account was now, and how fucked up she was when it came to men.
She moved through the hallway that led back to the main dining room at a rapid clip, hoping to reach the parking lot before the tears broke free, but a hand touched her shoulder. “Hey, hold up.”
The quiet command of his voice and the gentleness of the touch had her halting her step before she could think better of it. She closed her eyes, took a breath, and turned around, speech prepared. But when she saw the genuine concern on his face, her words got stuck in her throat.
He tucked his hands in his pockets, the move pulling his black dress shirt snug across what looked to be long, lean muscles beneath. His eyes scanned hers. “Are you okay? I didn’t mean to chase you off.”
She put her hand to her too hot forehead, trying to catch her breath and center herself. “I’m sorry. It wasn’t you. I’m fine. This night just isn’t working out like I thought it would.”
“Expected to meet your perfect match?”
She made a sound that was some mixture of a snort, a sob, and a laugh. “Oh my God. Hardly. What a joke that is. A perfect match.”
His mouth lifted at the corner, his blue eyes sparkling with a hint of amusement. “You don’t think there’s the perfect someone out there for everyone? Someone who’s meant to fit just with you? All the movies say so.”
“Movies sell us a bill of goods,” she said flatly. All that mystical aligning of stars was such bullshit. People got into relationships for what it could do for them. When the benefit ran out, they moved on. She’d seen that proven over and over again.
“I see,” he said, his tone teasing. “So you’re telling me you paid two-hundred dollars to attend something you don’t buy into?”
“I didn’t pay,” she admitted. “A friend told me she’d get me on the list. And I—I wanted to learn to cook and to taste the food.”
He chuckled and glanced back at the closed door. “A party crasher. How scandalous.”
His low laugh was like a gust of summer air across her nerve endings, reminding her of someone long ago. Someone she hadn’t had to be a chameleon for. She found herself smiling, her dour mood lifting. “That’s me. A scandal a minute. And now I’m causing more. I’m sure your perfect match date is anxiously awaiting you inside.”
“Nah, I’m not concerned about a perfect match, either. Just instant attraction.” He stepped closer and the air in the room seemed thicken, warm. “So answer me one question. Are you leaving because you were opposed to the money or me?”
She blinked, caught off guard by the question and his nearness. “What?”
“You came out here tonight to take a class and have a nice meal. I was happy to help you do that. So, did you turn down my offer because you think the money comes with strings or are you just opposed to spending the evening with me?”
“I—” She wet her lips. The way he’d said spend the evening with me had her mind conjuring pictures of him braced over her, his blond hair mussed, his eyes heated, and that sensual mouth whispering dirty things in her ear. Her thighs clenched, and she tried to come up with something to say that wasn’t God, you’re beautiful, please push me up against this wall and make me forget my name. “I can’t accept the money.”
That answer seemed to please him. “And me?”
She couldn’t tell if it was the warm, smoky spices from the restaurant mixing in, but even the scent of him was exotic and dangerous, tempting. She wanted to bury her face in the open collar of his shirt and inhale. All her resolve seemed to disintegrate in the space between breaths. “I’m not opposed.”
He reached out and pushed a stray lock of hair away from her face, the simple brush of fingers like lightning rods touching her skin. “So if I promised you I wouldn’t pay a dime for the rest of the evening, would you agree to spend it with me?”
She swallowed hard, the notion almost too much for her psyche to absorb. She knew what he was offering wasn’t simply dinner and a chat. There was a ripple of heat beneath each uttered word, a promise. Her body was on board with this plan, whether her good sense agreed or not. Already, she could feel the flush of arousal tightening her nipples and dampening her panties. She hadn’t been touched by anyone other than Doug in years, and her experiences with him had always been underwhelming. Just being this close to this mystery man made everything inside her feel hot and alive. But it’d be stupid and reckless to say yes. She’d never had a one-night stand. She didn’t even know if she was capable of it. Plus, what if she really was boring in bed.
She’d told herself that Doug had thrown that out there just to hurt her, but what if there was some truth to it? Her sexual history was brief since she’d gotten married so young. What if she hopped in bed with this guy and was completely out of her league?
“I can’t leave. I’m my friend’s ride,” she said, her voice thready and breathless from him being so close.
His smile was slow, sexy. “I never said we had to leave.”
She closed her eyes, his mere presence overwhelming her system and making her heart pound in her throat. “What do you mean?”
His breath brushed her ear. “Just take my hand, and I’ll show you.”
A shiver worked it’s way down her neck and along her skin. Every nerve ending screamed for his touch, all the years of pent-up frustration surging to the surface. She needed this escape, this release. She needed to feel like a woman again.
When she looked up at him finally, the pure confidence and interest shining there in his eyes had her nerves smoothing. She knew in that moment that this man would never allow her to be boring in bed. This was a man who got what he wanted. A man who wouldn’t be afraid to tell her exactly what to do, how he liked it, and how he was going to have her.
Suddenly, she wasn’t so interested in sangria anymore.
Or sitting in the car alone to have a good cry.
She reached out and let her hand slide into his.
Maybe she’d scratch something off her list tonight after all.
That’s it for now! NEED YOU TONIGHT is available for pre-order now and will out March 4th. And if you want to see what Kade was up to before he got his own book, CAUGHT UP IN YOU and the rest of the Loving on the Edge series is available now.
Here’s to a lovely new year and accomplishing all of those pesky resolutions! :)
She’s making a wish list, and he wants to be on top.
From foster kid to trophy wife, Tessa McAllen is about to reinvent herself all over again—and defy every insult her cheating ex-husband ever used against her: Selfish? She’s championing a charity. Stupid? She’s getting her degree.
Boring in bed?
Kade Vandergriff can help her with that one. When they encounter each other at a singles event held at one of his restaurants, Tessa blurts out that kink is for girls who try too hard, and Kade instantly wants to show this sassy stranger how thrilling a night under his command can be...but when he learns her name, the game changes for both of them.
In high school, Tessa was the popular girl who stuttering, awkward Kade fell for. But she chose another. Now, as she eagerly learns lesson after lesson, he’s going to make sure she never forgets him again.
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