Title: The Runaway
Author: Jennifer Bernard
Genre: Contemporary Romance
He knew she’d be nothing but trouble…
The moment she drifted into his marina, Mark Castellani knew Gracie was different. Resisting the blond pixie’s breezy approach to life is difficult, but Mark’s had years of practice living for simple pleasures that don’t extend beyond the next sunrise. Why long for anything lasting when he knows how quickly his whole world can be flipped upside down?
A bombshell long-lost memory finally explains why Gracie Rockwell never quite fit in with her boisterous family—she isn’t a Rockwell, after all. Desperate for answers, she leaves her beloved Rocky Peak Lodge in search of the little boy who saved her so long ago. Did he grow up to be the gorgeous-but-guarded Mark Castellani? What does he know about her true origins? If only she could pry some answers from her enigmatic new boss—and get rid of her massive crush.
But while she’s eager to uncover the past, he’d rather bury it forever. Mark was right—Gracie is the kind of trouble he never wanted. But she’s exactly the trouble he needs.
Finally, he gave up and shoved off his bedcovers. He padded barefoot down the quiet corridor toward Gracie’s room, pausing at every squeak in the floorboards.
This time her bedroom door was closed, so he could see it was painted with a sparkly silver ghost with a mermaid’s tail. He recognized her touch in the design. It was so…Gracie. Offbeat but beautiful and unique.
He tapped on the door, right over the ghost mermaid’s heart, which was covered by long, silvery hair. He heard soft footsteps, then the door opened a crack and Gracie’s sleepy face appeared. Her eyes widened at the sight of him. He was just launching into a smile when she slammed the door shut in his face.
Not quietly, either. Just a hard, classic, get-off-my-porch door slam.
Okay, then. Wow, he’d really pissed her off. She didn’t even want him to apologize. She wanted nothing to do with him.
With a hollow pit in his stomach, he turned to go.
This was going to be one awkward road trip. Maybe he ought to go home instead. She didn’t really want him around. He’d probably wind up putting his foot in his mouth again.
No. He’d followed her to Rocky Peak for a reason, and that was to help her with Janus Kaminski. Anything else was just icing on the cake—and he’d just have to do without it.
He was halfway down the hall when he heard her soft “pssst.”
With an impatient gesture, she beckoned him back to her room. He hurried back, but before she let him in, she put a finger over her lips. No talking. He nodded to show he got the message, then she yanked him inside with a hand curled into the front of his t-shirt.
He stumbled through the door, already off-balance. She took him by the wrist and hauled him toward her bed. Was she…what was going…were they going to…?
The unpredictability was exhilarating. He felt his cock already going hard. But should they really do this, with all the unresolved stuff between them?
“If you say one more word, you can just go back to your room,” she hissed fiercely.
Why was everything with Gracie always so confusing? He couldn’t ever get a handle on her. Maybe that was why he couldn’t get her out of his mind, no matter how much he tried.
He gave in and spread his arms wide in a gesture of surrender. She pushed him onto the bed, then stripped off the little nightie she was wearing. Naked, her skin luminous in the dark, she stood before him, hands on her hips, like a general surveying her troops.
At least one of her troops was more than ready for battle. His cock was throbbing like a drum. He pushed his sleep pants off his hips to let it spring free. She surveyed him almost clinically, not a trace of emotion on her face.
That was when he realized what she was up to. She was trying to separate all emotion from what they were about to do. He remembered her last words to him at the cabin. “Thanks for the sex. That was fun.”
She was trying to make this all about sex.
She held up a finger, telling him to wait, then sauntered to a low table next to her bed. He couldn’t take his eyes off her—she was moving provocatively, sensually, parading her nudity.
All about sex. That was fine, right? It was better than no sex.
But as he watched her open a drawer and pull out a condom, he decided that…no. It wasn’t okay. The hell if this was just about sex. He had a say in this, too.
She settled onto the bed on her knees, condom in one hand, the other trailing between her own legs. He got the message, crystal clear. Anyone can touch my clit and make me come. Even me. I don’t really need you. But since you’re here…
He wasn’t going to play the “this doesn’t matter” game. Because it did matter. If he couldn’t tell her so in words, he could show her without them.
Jennifer Bernard is a USA Today bestselling author of contemporary romance. Her books have been called "an irresistible reading experience" full of "quick wit and sizzling love scenes." A graduate of Harvard and former news promo producer, she left big city life in Los Angeles for true love in Alaska, where she now lives with her husband and stepdaughters. She still hasn't adjusted to the cold, so most often she can be found cuddling with her laptop and a cup of tea. No stranger to book success, she also writes erotic novellas under a naughty secret name that she's happy to share with the curious.
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