Publisher: Entangled Indulgence
Publication Date: Aug 15, 2012
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Armed with a sassy haircut, a sharp wit, and a personal list of rules for all life’s exigencies, Grace Santiago is a fiercely loyal Senate staffer who has everything under control. At least until famous political pundit Ethan Castle walks back into her life. Grace hasn’t forgotten their disastrous affair in law school, but she can’t resist his bad boy charm.
When Grace learns that Ethan has been hired as a political gunslinger for the other side, her loyalties—and her heart—are torn in two. Though their sexual chemistry can’t be denied, they find themselves locked in political combat. Ethan believes that all is fair in love and war, but he won’t throw the election—not even to win Grace’s heart. So what can a good girl like Grace do, but learn to play dirty?
Two candidates. One election. May the best man—or woman—win!
How had it happened? Grace wondered. It was a work night. It was past midnight. Yet, somehow, she found herself in the diner’s empty parking lot making out with Ethan Castle in the front seat of his rented Corvette. She couldn’t remember exactly how they got here, but once he’d kissed her, she’d lost all sense of time and sanity, and now the gearshift was in a seriously inconvenient location.
She loved the way he threaded his hands through her hair. The way teeth clashed, tongues tangled, and quickened breath fogged up the windshield. He made her feel completely out of control—totally unlike herself. But when he fumbled with the buttons of her blouse, Grace stopped him. It was one thing to kiss in public. It was a whole other world of wrongness to do more than kiss. “What are you doing?”
At first, Ethan seemed incapable of coherent speech. Then he whispered, “I’m pretty sure I’m trying to undress you.”
Grace looked out the window where an early snowfall on the pavement turned from green to red with the flashing of the streetlight. “We can’t do this, Ethan. We’re grown-ups now.”
He leered. “Which means we can do whatever we want.”
Grace felt shaky. She could still taste his cologne, but it wasn’t stronger than the taste of her own longing. Somehow, she found the inner strength to pull away, lower herself back into her own seat and tuck the hem of her blouse in her skirt. “I know the kind of impression I gave you back in law school. That I was trashy—”
“That’s not the impression you gave me. Not at all. But don’t tell me you aren’t having just as much fun as I am tonight.”
“No, you’re right. I’m enjoying this—I’m really enjoying this. It’s just that we’ve got to stop. I mean, you’re leaving town in the morning, and once you pick a candidate, you’ll be off to Ohio or South Carolina.”
Ethan put his hands on the wheel. “What if I stayed?”
In Grace’s experience, men didn’t stay. Her father sure hadn’t. So she looked Ethan in the eye, and said, “You’re not the kind of guy who sticks around. I know how your job goes. You’re never in one place for long and you love it that way. You thrive on it.”
“That makes me a bad person?”
The car suddenly got a lot colder. Grace pulled her coat over her shoulders. “Of course not.”
He was clearly offended. “The way I remember it, you were the one who didn’t stick around, so what’s the problem now, really?”
That shamed her. “Look, we shouldn’t be doing this. It’s against the rules.”
He ran a hand through his dark hair and tension tightened down the toned length of his forearm where he’d rolled up his shirtsleeve. God, he was gorgeous. It wasn’t really her fault that she turned into a sex-starved lunatic when he was around, was it?
“What rules, Grace? Name the statute.”
In Grace’s opinion that was pretty unfair, considering she hadn’t finished law school. “It’s against my rules.”
“Do you come with a manual or something?” She watched him let go of his irritation. Then he pulled her close, nuzzling her collarbone. “See, I was always the type who opened his toys without reading the directions… Sometimes you just gotta break the rules.”
Grace shivered a bit at his mouth near her ear. “But I like rules.”
She felt him smirk. “Oh, I could give you some rules…”
She didn’t want to think about what he might mean by that. It would surely be her undoing. “Ethan, I’m serious.”
“I know and it’s weird. What’s the story behind all your rules, hmm?”
He was teasing her, and he had every right to. She knew she was eccentric, and that was probably the polite way of putting it. But her rules came from a very serious place. When she was young, her parents didn’t speak English very well. She’d had to translate for them. Even as a very little girl, she’d had to pay attention, be disciplined, and act like a little adult or else they wouldn’t have money, food, or a place to sleep. Her dad was always sure that a big payday was around the corner, some new wild scheme that was going to make them rich, but whenever he came into any money, he always blew it. Bad decisions, poor impulse control…it had made her childhood hell. And she’d promised herself that she’d never be like him.
That’s why she had rules.
But all of that was too sore of a subject to share with Ethan. It was too embarrassing. That was the problem with letting anybody get close to her. They’d find out that not even somebody as messed-up as her dad was willing to stick around for Grace’s sake. So she had to pull away. “Ethan, I like order. I like lists and routine. Meeting you in a diner in the middle of the night isn’t the kind of thing I do.”
“But you’re here anyway, aren’t you?”
There was that. A very good point. And it wasn’t because anybody pushed her into it. She’d wanted this and she’d done it. Which was a rare and precious thing even if it went against all her better instincts. “I have no explanation for this.”
“I can explain it,” Ethan said, softly stroking her shoulder. “When you saw Blain Halloway, you thought of me. Just like I said you would. That’s why you’re here.”
Holy Mary, Mother of God. There it was again, that look of total sexual confidence. That predatory glance, like he was about to eat her alive. And come to think of it, she really wanted to be devoured. Ethan Castle made her heart race in a way the senator’s grandson never did, but this kind of mad excitement wasn’t something she could trust. “Ethan…I like you. I really do. It’s just that I don’t know how to fit you into my life. I don’t even know when we’re going to see each other again.”
Ethan grimaced. “I don’t know, either…”
Grace bit her lip and they both lapsed into silence.
Running a hand through his hair, Ethan finally asked, “So, this other guy, does he fit into your five-year plan?”
“We’ve got a lot of history…”
He gave a sigh that sounded like resignation. “Tell him if he ever stands you up again, I’m gonna have something to say about it.”
So, this was good-bye, then. That was for the better, wasn’t it?
Ethan leaned into her. “I’ll take you home. Just let me kiss you goodnight.” When she looked wary, he added, “Just a kiss.”
It was just a kiss the way the Gettysburg Address was just a speech. Ethan started with a captivating premise, his hands on her cheeks, his lips soft. But then he drew her deeper into it, the rhetoric of his tongue soaring as he captured her own. Finally he made his closing argument by biting her lower lip and pulling her tightly against his chest until she was breathless.
It was another thrilling, electrifying, heart-stopping kiss. Unfortunately, if it was a good-bye kiss, why did it leave her dazed, dewy, and wanting more?
Stephanie Draven is currently a denizen of Baltimore, that city of ravens and purple night skies. She lives there with her favorite nocturnal creatures–three scheming cats and a deliciously wicked husband. And when she is not busy with dark domestic rituals, she writes her books.
Stephanie has always been a storyteller. In elementary school, she channeled Scheherazade, weaving a series of stories to charm children into sitting with her each day at the lunch table. When she was a little older, Stephanie scared all the girls at her sleepovers with ghost stories.
She should have known she was born to hold an audience in her thrall, but Stephanie resisted her writerly urges and graduated from college with a B.A. in Government. Then she went to Law School, where she learned how to convincingly tell the tallest tales of all!
A longtime lover of ancient lore, Stephanie enjoys re-imagining myths for the modern age. She doesn’t believe that true love is ever simple or without struggle so her work tends to explore the sacred within the profane, the light under the loss and the virtue hidden in vice. She counts it amongst her greatest pleasures when, from her books, her readers learn something new about the world or about themselves.
Stephanie also writes historical fiction as Stephanie Dray and has a series of forthcoming novels from Berkley Books featuring Cleopatra’s daughter.