Playing for Keeps – Cathryn Fox
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Sweet Ride

Book Cover: Sweet Ride
Part of the Playing for Keeps series:

Playing for Keeps, Book 3
Entangled Publishing (November 16th, 2015)

Sweet Ride

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He'll unlock her wildest fantasies...

Private investigator Curtis Jagger has always had a thing for Alix Harris. She was the darling of their high school--gorgeous, popular, class president...and, he suspects, just as naughty as she is nice. Now Jag has the opportunity to show her what she's missing. To show her that sometimes being bad can be sexy as hell...

Alix has always done what she's supposed to, and it's gotten her exactly nowhere. Determined to please herself--in every way possible--she accepts Jag's mysterious invitation to his ranch. In front of Jag's camera lens, Alix finds freedom far beyond her expectations. A freedom where she takes the reins and rides out every wicked desire.

But in one week, Alix will have to return to her real world where politics reign. A world that can't include Jagger, or she'll lose everything.

Published:
Publisher: Entangled
Genres:
Excerpt:

Chapter One

Alix Harris walked the length of the barn, yelping when a blade of straw cut into the soft flesh between her sandaled toes. Rivulets of perspiration trickled down her cleavage in the stifling heat, plastering the bodice of her dress to her skin. God, she was so not in the mood for this today. She plucked at the expensive fabric, the slight stirring of air doing little to cool her overheated flesh or lighten her mood.

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Hot, sweaty, and hardly dressed for a working dude ranch, she haphazardly tucked a long strand of hair back into her once-perfectly-coiffed ponytail. She shook her head, her thoughts rewinding back to a week ago, to when she’d received a hand-delivered invitation promising her week of R&R at a ranch in cowboy country. She’d had no intention of going until—well—she’d rather not think about the events that drove her to the airport and then to the other side of the country. The second she came face-to-face with the boy from her youth—the one who’d been a bit of a geek back in the day, but still managed to invade her private thoughts at night—she knew what this reunion was really all about.

Sex.

Honestly, what else could it be? She’d caught the hunger in his glance when she’d exited the plane, noticed the way his eyes darkened as they traveled the length of her body, gazing at her like she was a tall glass of water and he’d been in the prairie sun too long. She also noticed his sidekicks, Coop and Mac, who were standing on the tarmac waiting for Julia and Jess—girls she knew from years ago and who had received the same invitation as her—to disembark. What kind of guys tracked down women from their past to offer them a free vacation without wanting something in return? None. She was used to a world of tit for tat and could only assume Jag wanted the former.

She barely knew Curtis Jagger back in high school, and she was a little shocked to discover that he’d brought her here to live out some juvenile fantasy with her. In their teens, they’d traveled in different circles, and even though the president of the audiovisual club had grown into a gorgeous man with a banging body, it didn’t mean she was going to hang around and become his plaything for the next week. She was so done with men, and rocking the headboard a time or two—or ten—with Jag was the last thing she needed right now. No matter how sexy he looked in that damn Stetson, or how long it had been since she’d been touched.

Don’t even get me started on that.

What she needed to do was turn around, get on the next plane back home to Nova Scotia, and figure out what the hell she was going to do with her life.

Why would I want to do that? To run another political campaign for her fiancé? She snorted. What a way to put her hard-earned politics and international relations degree to use.

If only life came with a redo button. Even if it did, she doubted she could change hers, anyway. With a father who was mayor and a socialite mother who backed him unconditionally, she’d been groomed for the public life since the get-go.

Dammit, she was so tired of being a doormat, tired of doing what everyone else wanted her to do. She scuffed her Jimmy Choos on the barn floor as she paced. Maybe she should just say the hell with them all and stay here for a week and enjoy a few fantasies with the hot cowboy. What is that they say? An eye for an eye? Wouldn’t that put her fiancé in his place?

Ex-fiancé.

With her back to Jag, she continued to pace, and a laugh caught in her throat, even though    there was nothing funny about any of this.

“Hey,” a deep, masculine voice said from behind. “You okay?”

Alix spun around, and when she found Jag watching her with rich, smoldering brown eyes, there was nothing she could do to stop her mind from traveling down an erotic path. One where limits were pushed, boundaries were crossed, and satisfaction was guaranteed. Her gaze traveled over his broad shoulders and wide chest, going lower to take in the jeans that hugged him to perfection. Her body stirred in a way it hadn’t in so very long. Maybe having a wild week with him was exactly what she needed to do.

Except that is so not like me.

Or maybe it is, and I’ve just stifled that side of myself for far too long.

“Alix,” Jag said again, taking a measured step toward her. “Relax. I promise you, everything is going to be okay.”

With his hands shoved deep in his pockets, his grin was sexy and laid-back, but his easygoing nature did nothing to relax her. She sucked in a quick breath and ignored the need taking up residency between her legs as her voice lodged somewhere in her throat.

He slanted his head, his dark eyes full of heat and humor as they moved over her face. “You really don’t remember me?”

“No,” she lied, not wanting to admit to anything or let him think she was going to play into his fantasy. She cleared her throat and tried for normal. “Should I?”

He took another step forward, and apprehension surged inside her as the clean, spicy smell of his skin drowned out the aromas inside the barn. She filled her lungs with his scent. If he smelled this good, how would he taste? Her mind raced, envisioning her tongue on his hard body, licking, teasing, and savoring the saltiness of his skin. Oh God… Her sex clenched, and she shifted uncomfortably. In an attempt to take the edge off, she squeezed her thighs together, cursing her body for its unwanted reactions. When her attempts proved futile, she starched her spine and worked to purify her thoughts before she became completely unhinged.

What the hell is wrong with me?

“I used to sign the club’s audiovisual equipment out to you back in high school,” he explained. He watched her for a moment, like he was waiting for a lightbulb to go off inside her head. She folded her arms and stared at him, hoping to give him the impression that she had no idea what he was talking about. “That’s okay,” he said. “I’m not that guy anymore.” He paused and pressed his thumb into a muscular chest that her traitorous fingers suddenly itched to touch. “I‘d really like for you to get to know the guy I am today, anyway.”

Too bad really, because the Jag from her youth was sweet and caring, always going out of his way to sign out expensive video club equipment to her when she needed it for one of her student council functions, or simply because she wanted to borrow it for her own personal use. But because he was from the wrong side of the tracks, and she had a reputation to uphold in society, her parents forbade her to associate with him, even though he was so much nicer than the privileged boys from her circle.

Tired of being yanked around by everyone in her life, she said, “No games, Jag. Tell me why you really invited me here.” She held his gaze and smoothed down the bodice of her designer dress that belonged nowhere near a ranch, but she’d raced to the airport so fast she had no time to go shopping for something more appropriate.

“We were sort of friends once and I was thinking about you a few weeks ago.” He gave a casual shrug. “I thought we could reconnect, get to know each other better.” His lips twitched, but there was something very honest and open in his eyes as he looked at her.

“How will we do that?” she asked bluntly

COLLAPSE

Wild Ride

Book Cover: Wild Ride
Part of the Playing for Keeps series:

Playing for Keeps, Book 2
Entangled Publishing (October 20th, 2015)

Wild Ride

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Good girl, meet bad cowboy...

Marketing Tycoon Tyler Mackenzie, a.k.a. Wildman Mac, has a knack for knowing what people want and, more importantly, what they need…so when he decides to show sweet and sexy yoga instructor Jess Gray that she's the one for him, he puts a seductive campaign into motion.

When Mac defines the terms for the week and insists she do everything he says, Jess can't help but be intrigued. Since this good girl wants to break free and do something naughty, she agrees to his terms and soon finds herself embarking on a sexual journey that knows no limits. For Jess this is one week of living out her fantasies, but Mac is determined to make this wild ride last forever.

Published:
Publisher: Entangled
Genres:
Excerpt:

Chapter One

Jesus Christ this was a stupid idea. Stupidest goddamn idea he’d ever heard. And as president and owner of Mackenzie Marketing, the East Coast’s most successful advertising company, Tyler Mackenzie knew a stupid idea when he heard one. So why the hell had he agreed to it when his best friend Chase Cooper suggested he and their other best friend Curtis Jagger all contact the girls from their past, the ones they thought had gotten away, to see if they could have a future?

Because I’d never gotten over that sweet kiss I shared with her, that’s why.

Mac glanced at Coop and Jag as they all stood under a towering oak tree watching the small plane land on the ranch’s makeshift runaway. The warm afternoon sun broke through the canopy of leaves overhead; Mac fisted his hands and exhaled slowly, but it did nothing to ease the cold knot of apprehension tightening his gut.

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Sure he’d thought of Jess Gray over the years, the shy, quiet girl next door he’d spent his high school years crushing on, the one who’d always listened silently, carefully, when he spoke, but had little to say in return. But having Jag’s private investigative company track her down while Mac put together a proposal he’d hoped she couldn’t refuse was a damn stupid idea. Shit. When this was all over he’d have to remember to kick Coop’s ass.

Tessa Turner, the experienced ranch hand who ran things when the guys were back home in Nova Scotia, where they all held down full-time jobs, met the plane as it came to a stop. The door opened and Mac swallowed against the dryness in his throat as the passengers began to disembark.

Had he mentioned this was a stupid idea?

He shifted his weight from one foot to the other and rolled his shoulders, trying to ease the ball of tension building between them. Honestly, what were the odds that any of the three girls would show, anyway? An anonymous invitation to a working dude ranch in Springvale, Alberta, for a week of R&R would probably come off as a little sketchy to smart, educated women like them. Yeah, he had nothing to worry about. The chance of Jess actually climbing off that plane was slim to none.

Or not.

The second he saw a long set of legs touch the first step he knew it was her. As a yoga instructor, her body was lean and fit, and he’d recognize those sleek legs anywhere. His heart hammered against his ribs, and his knees damn near gave out on him as he waited in anticipation. Jesus, his palms were even sweaty. The world seemed to close in on him as he continued to watch her move down the steps. Off in the distance near the horse corral, he could hear someone calling out to him, but he couldn’t make out what they were saying over the sound of his pulse drumming in his ears.

“Holy shit,” he murmured, driving his hands into his jeans as he watched her pull her bag tight to her chest, her long dark hair brushing against her shoulders as she glanced around, trying to orient herself.

Jess was here. She was actually here.

Still trying to wrap his brain around the fact that she’d accepted the invitation and boarded the plane, Mac moved toward her on legs not quite steady. She turned curious brown eyes on him and he stopped to remove his Stetson, which shadowed the lower half of his head and neck. She studied him a moment, taking a good long look, then her mouth parted in an O of surprise as recognition registered on her face When their eyes met and held, she gifted him with a smile. A smile so bright and disarming, this time he found his entire body breaking out in a sweat—and it had nothing to do with the scorching sun.

He put his hat back on and looked her over. Taking in the dress she was wearing, and the soft auburn highlights in her hair. Jesus, she’d been pretty back in high school, but now she was…beautiful. Jess Gray had blossomed into a gorgeous woman whom he couldn’t wait one more second to get to know better. Strides determined, and with the world around him fading to a dull buzz, he quickly closed the distance between them. His heart thundered in his head as everything about her set off a storm inside him.

But as he approached, her smile fell and panic moved into her eyes. What the hell? Hooves sounded on the dry ground and that’s when he realized the thundering wasn’t coming from inside his head. She looked over his shoulder and faltered backward, and the next thing Mac knew they were both flat out on the ground, his body pressing hers into the soil. He immediately came up on his elbow and brushed her hair from her forehead, wanting to protect her from his weight bearing down on her. He shifted to the side. “Are you okay?” he asked quickly, unease tightening his gut as his gaze moved her face. Fuck, if he hurt her…

“I’m okay,” she said quietly.

Dust roared up around him, and when something nudged him he turned to see his horse Eleanor.

“Shit,” ranch hand Blake Callahan said as he came running over. “Sorry, Mac. She got loose. I tried to warn you but you didn’t hear.” Blake grabbed Eleanor’s harness. “She’s been temperamental lately.”

“It’s okay,” Mac assured Blake as the ranch hand started to guide Mac’s pregnant mare back to her stall. “She’s been a little possessive of me all week.”

Blake ran a gentle hand over the horse’s protruding side. “She’s getting close.”

“I’ll check on her in a few,” Mac promised, watching Blake lead the mare away.

When they were out of sight, he turned his attention back to Jess, and her body softened beneath his as their gazes once again collided. While he wanted to apologize—Christ, he hadn’t expected their first meeting after ten years to go down quite like that—he couldn’t say he was sorry that Eleanor had gotten loose and knocked him into her.

“You sure you’re okay?” he asked again and slipped his hand around her head to lift it off the hard ground and provide a cushiony place for it to rest.

Jess nodded, her cheeks turning a pretty shade of pink. “I’m okay,” she said breathlessly. “You?”

“Yeah. I’m okay.” Warm familiarity curled around him and he couldn’t seem to move—didn’t want to move. He stayed on top of her, his glance moving over her pretty face, her mouth. Lips he’d kissed so long ago, and was dying to kiss again. Jess Gray. Jesus, he couldn’t believe she’d actually taken him up on his invitation, or that he had one whole week to spend with her and explore the pull between them, one he felt now, every bit as much as he had all those years ago.

“Mac?” she asked.

He looked deep into her eyes, dark, expressive eyes that told him so much about her. He took a moment to recall that kiss from long ago—one he’d tricked her into—yeah, he was always the joker back in the day. The high school gym had been full of students and teachers, celebrating the last dance before Christmas vacation. He’d called her over to the doorway, and when she reached him, he pointed upward. He remembered the flush on her cheeks, much like the flush she had now, when she saw the mistletoe dangling over his head. She’d opened her mouth to say something and that’s when he kissed her. So sweet. So fucking soft and sweet. That kiss, not to mention the journal of hers that he’d managed to get a quick peek at earlier that same day, had told him so much about the girl beneath the shy surface, so much about who Jess really was, and what she truly wanted. But when he’d pulled back she took off, leaving him standing there completely crushed and utterly speechless. Never before, or after, had any woman left him feeling so…confused after a simple kiss.

As he looked her over now, it occurred to him he never wanted to frighten her off like that again. She might be shy and sensitive, bringing out the protector in him, but she also had a quiet strength about her. It was just going to take the right guy to show her she was strong, beautiful, and desirable. The right guy to coax her out from her shell and release her adventurous spirit, one he’d discovered that fateful night so long ago. There was no doubt he wanted to be the guy she needed.

Hell, he would be the guy she needed.

He looked at her lips, full, plump…so damn kissable. Her hair splayed across the ground, and a bevy of fantasies rushed through his brain, mainly how she’d look spread out on his bed. He swallowed the groan of want rumbling in his throat.

“What…what am I doing here?” she asked.

He touched a strand of hair, running it though his thumb and forefinger.

“We do?”

He brushed his thumb over her cheek. “Yeah, we do,” he said quietly, completely blown away that she was here, with him. Jesus, he was the luckiest man alive.

She went quiet for a moment, and then she said, “Perhaps we should get up, so you can explain it to me.”

Shit, he hadn’t even realized they were still on the ground. “Right.” He inched upward and frowned when he noticed the dust caking her sundress. “And we should probably get you out of these clothes.”

Her eyes dimmed with something akin to desire and Mac couldn’t help but smile. This was the best goddamn idea Coop had ever had.

He’d have to remember to thank him when this was all over.

COLLAPSE

Slow Ride

Book Cover: Slow Ride
Part of the Playing for Keeps series:

Playing for Keeps, Book 1
Entangled Publishing (September 29th 2015)

Slow Ride

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He's looking for love. She's looking for trouble...

As a successful doctor and weekend cowboy, Chase Cooper enjoys a full life with plenty of female company. But lately, something hasn't felt right. He's been distracted. Antsy. Damn it, he's been lonely. With an eye on settling down with a nice girl, Coop invites his high school best friend down to his ranch to see if maybe she's the one for him...

Instead, her twin sister shows up. The one who loathes him.

Julia Blair is already halfway to Coop's ranch when she learns the invitation wasn't for her, but her vivacious twin sister. She has two choices: slink back home, or see just how far this farce will go. One glance at hotter-than-sin Coop, and she knows she's playing a dangerously hot game. Because what this cowboy wants, this cowboy gets...

Published:
Publisher: Entangled
Genres:
Excerpt:

Wasn't this the perfect opportunity to live a day in her sister's life? Was she really going to pass that up?

She took a good long minute to mull that over. Okay, so Julia might not have been the one Coop had been expecting to get off that plane, but maybe this wasn't about him anymore. Maybe this moment was about her and what she wanted.

With that last thought urging her on, Julia climbed from the pond, quickly towel-dried her body, and pulled on a borrowed pair of denim shorts and a pretty pink T-shirt that was a little too snug around her breasts. Once dressed, she followed the path Coop had taken and soon found him alone inside the barn, the warm morning light drifting in through the open doors and falling over his hard body.

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With his back to her, she watched him for a moment, watched the way he quietly talked to his horse, the way he stroked the gelding with care. While Coop might be tough and rugged on the outside, there was a reflective side of him, a side that was both sweet and caring. A side that made him so easy to be with. And it was that side that drew her in and had her aching to place herself in his hands.

Okay, so she couldn't deny that she wanted to indulge in him physically, wanted to step out of her comfort zone and throw caution to the wind. Just once.

"Coop," she said, trying not to sound breathless as she imagined those capable hands of his on her body, taking her to places she'd never before been.

He spun around to face her, and when his glance met hers, he raked shaky hands through his hair. "Julia," he began. "Jesus, I'm sorry. I misread—"

She took a deep breath and blurted out, "You're not the one at fault here."

He cast his eyes downward. "I made a mistake—"

"No, you didn't. I did."

His gaze flew back to hers, and he drove his hands deep into his pockets. She tried not to react when the hard muscles along his arms flexed and relaxed again. "What are you talking about? I shouldn't have—"

"Yes, you should have."

He gave a slow shake of his head. "I don't understand."

Julia drew a centering breath, and while she couldn't pretend to be her sister, it didn't mean that she couldn't act like her and get what she wanted from Coop, what she always wanted. She went up on her toes, and said, "The answer is yes, Coop."

She watched his throat work as he swallowed. "Yes?"

"Yes, I would like some company." She stepped into him, and when she aligned her body with his, positioning her pussy against his cock, he slid his arm around her waist, tugging her against him.

His gaze moved over her face, assessing her, and she could feel the heat in his body as well as the hardness between his legs. It excited her. It aroused her. It made her feel bold and adventurous.

His blue eyes darkened. "Are you sure, Julia? Are you sure you know what you're doing?"

COLLAPSE