Title: Holding Her Close
Author: Lexi Ryan
Series: Mended Hearts #2
~ SYNOPSIS ~HOLD YOUR FRIENDS CLOSE...AND YOUR ENEMIES CLOSER.
She's everything he detests about Hollywood.
After spending my entire acting career being cast as the airhead, I finally have the serious role I've been dying for, and I screw it all up during a four martini dinner with my ex. Now, thanks to the morality clause in my contract, I might lose the role of a lifetime. My only hope is to convince the media (and my eccentrically conservative director) that I've entered a committed relationship. But when I use my brother's costume party to launch Operation Fake Fiancé, I end up in front of the camera with the wrong guy, leaving my reputation—and the fate of my career—at his mercy. Any other guy I could sweet talk into playing the supporting role I need, but not Officer Cade Watts. Not the man who hates everything about me. Not the man who would most revel in seeing me fail.
He's everything she needs.
I don't care how good it felt to have her in my arms. I don't care that I can't close my eyes without remembering the way she tastes or the sound of her moan. I want nothing to do with Janelle Crane. Her scheme to fake an engagement to save her own career is exactly the kind of manipulative Hollywood crap I left LA to escape. But when her fan mail turns threatening and the tragedies befalling her former costars seem to be anything but coincidence, everything changes. Now I don't just want to play the part of Janelle's fake fiancé, I demand it. I won't let my jaded heart cost me another case. I may not trust Janelle but I do care, and the only way I know she's safe is if I'm holding her close.
Janelle spins a slow circle to take in the room. She looks a little awestruck, which would be understandable for most people but Janelle Crane comes from Hollywood royalty. She is Hollywood royalty. The Beverly Wilshire is her Holiday Inn.
I drop my bag in the closet and tug my shirt over my head. I need a shower and a few hours of sleep.
“You’re staying here too?” she asks, her eyes on my bare chest.
I take a deep breath and do my best to remind my body that I’m not here for fun, that this relationship is nothing but a rouse. But there’s nothing fake about the way she looks at me. The chemistry between us is real. “That’s the plan,” I say, stepping forward. I can’t help myself.
When she’s in the room, I need to be closer.
“Were you going to let me in on this plan at any point?”
I grunt. “Yeah, that must suck, having someone plan something that involves you and never let you in on it.”
She folds her arms and her face hardens. “I don’t have any patience for your tender ego right now. I’ve had a fucking shitty day. You need to start talking or I’m walking out that door. I don’t care what kind of favors you called in to make sure no one sees us together.”
“There’s the spoiled princess,” I mutter.
“What did you just call me?”
“I’m just pointing out that you’re awfully demanding for a woman who owes me a little gratitude.”
“Gratitude?” She shakes her head, obviously trying to make sense of my motivations.
I sympathize. I can’t even process how I quickly I picked up and flew across the country for a woman I barely know—a woman who I wanted nothing to do with twentyfour hours ago. Any analysis makes me seriously questioning my own judgment, so I’ve chosen not to think about it at all.
“What do you want me to thank you for, exactly?” she asks. “For kissing me?”
“Sure.” I take another step closer and she has to crane her neck to look up at me. “Start there.”
My gaze drops to her lips. Goddamn but I want to touch her again. And not for an audience this time. Just for me. For us.
“You want me to thank you,” she says slowly, emphasizing each word, “For. Kissing. Me?”
My lips twitch. “Isn’t proper to thank a person for giving you something you enjoy, Princess?”
I shrug. “That wasn’t in my plans, but it could be arranged.”
Her nostrils flare and she presses a hand to my chest. If she intended to push me away, something stops her. Instead, she just rests it there as her gaze dips to my mouth and her lips part. “You’re an asshole.”
“Sorry, was that not in the script? Next time, tell me how your fake boyfriend is supposed to act. I’ll try to do better.” I squeeze my eyes shut. I’m being a dick. All because I don’t trust myself around her.
“You have one hell of a chip on your shoulder,” she says, and when I open my eyes, she’s leaning closer. “Can’t say that I blame you for that.”
I could kiss her now. I could lead her to the bed and put my hand between her legs. Seduce her with soft touches until we both forget what we’re here hiding from. Maybe she’d let me fuck her and I’d find out if her moan is as deep and throaty when I’m inside her as it is when my mouth is between her legs. The sex would be hard—fast and greedy and so fucking good.
Maybe it’d be better to get it out of our systems. Maybe it’s inevitable.
I’m calculating the best way to get her to the bed when she lifts her chin and whispers, “Thank you. Thank you for kissing me like that in front of Tom.” The words are full of sincerity and vulnerability. They’re a sucker punch to the gut.
“You’re welcome.” I draw in a deep breath, trying to remember all the reasons I shouldn’t touch her. There were reasons. I’m almost sure of it. “I should get in the shower.”
She steps back and lifts her shirt a few inches. The movement is hardly brazen, but it exposes her navel and the jewel pierced into it. The jewel I sucked into my mouth only two days ago.
“You want company?” she asks.
My gut knots and my cock is rock hard in an instant. Fuck, yes, I want company, and not just any company. I very specifically want the company of the woman offering it. I want her naked and wet against the marble tile, squeezing me tight as I make her come under the spray. And while I do it, I want her eyes to look like they do right now. Vulnerable. Open. Trusting.
I swallow hard and nod to the bed. “You need some sleep. You should nap. We’ll talk later.” I turn and close the door before I can change my mind.
If I’m going to protect her, I have to think of her as the Hollywood princess with the cold and manipulative heart. Because a vulnerable Janelle melts the ice I’ve carefully erected around my own heart.
I strip the rest of my clothes and turn the shower as cold as it will go.
~Lexi Ryan~Once a college English professor, I now write full time. I live in rural Indiana, where, when I’m not writing, I get to hang out with my husband and two kids--a six-year-old boy and a two-year-old hellion, er, girl. Not surprisingly, reading and writing remain my favorite activities, though both come in bits and pieces these days, not the big hunks of time I enjoyed before I had children. When I’m feeling virtuous, I like to go running (I use that word liberally. I’m really, really slow) or do yoga. Don’t worry, I’m always careful to balance out such activities with a hearty serving of ice cream or a chocolate martini.