Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Fool Me Once (International Romance Series - Book Two) by Mona Ingram

Fool Me Once (International Romance Series - Book Two) by Mona Ingram
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What do you get when you combine a feisty female journalist and a former Special Forces operative? Here's a sample:

He circled her with a predatory gleam in his eyes. "You look good enough to eat," he murmured softly.

His voice reached out and drew her in. It was sippin' whiskey, it was black velvet, it was hard steel - and God help her - it was hot sex, waiting to happen. She met his eyes as he came to a stop in front of her.

A pulse throbbed in her throat and he smiled, tracing it with his fingertips as his eyes held hers. Lowering his head, his lips brushed her skin where his fingers had been, then trailed lower, lingering in the hollow of her neck. "Olivia", he whispered, raising his head. "I don't know what I'm going to do about you." His lips seemed to suggest a world of possibilities.

Olivia MacMillan wonders what she's let herself in for when she agrees to accompany Josh Morgan to the European Riviera. Josh says he wants her contacts in the casinos so he can play in exclusive, high-stakes poker games. But she soon learns that his motives are more sinister than a simple game of poker. What could make a former Special Forces operative come out of retirement for one last, kick-ass mission?

Join Olivia and Josh as they visit Monte Carlo and Marbella in search of an arms dealer, then travel with them to Josh's ranch in Montana, where the truth threatens to tear them apart.

Explicit sexual content. Some characters in this book were first introduced in Deception, the story of Alex and Justine. If you liked Fool Me Once, you're sure to enjoy Deception.

Excerpt:

Set-up: British Journalist Olivia MacMillan is at loose ends. Her best friend is getting married to her neighbour, and her editor has refused her request to do a news story. She escapes the engagement party and enters her neighbour’s peaceful greenhouse:

Olivia walked quickly through the house, exiting by the kitchen entrance. The large Georgian mansion was almost as familiar to her as her own home. From this side of the house, the only sign that a party was underway was the collection of automobiles parked around the cul-de-sac at the front of the house.
The familiar trail that connected Haversham Hall with her parents’ home skirted the greenhouse. Olivia paused in the open door, breathing in the heavy, humid air. The atmosphere wrapped around her like a comforting shawl and she drew in a deep breath. Here in the greenhouse, life could not be rushed. Seeds germinated and plants bloomed in their own time; a comforting concept in today’s frantic world. She leaned back against the potting bench and pressed slender fingers into her temples. Watching Justine’s transparent joy when Alex came into view, a surge of envy had washed over her and she’d been ashamed of her thoughts. Today, for the first time, her total involvement in her career hadn’t been enough, and she’d found herself adrift and achingly alone. Which explained why she’d experienced such a visceral reaction to the American. Thank goodness she’d had the presence of mind to get out of there. The last thing she wanted was to tangle with a man who made her think wicked thoughts from just one glimpse. With any luck, he’d be gone by tomorrow.
Calmer now, she pushed away from the bench and wandered farther down the aisle toward her favorite section. Suspended at the end of graceful stems, orchids hung like lush tropical jewels. In her teenage years, when Olivia first started observing Alex’s mother in the greenhouse, she’d been too impatient to appreciate the orchids that Daphne painstakingly cultivated. She’d preferred the quick-flowering annuals – their showy splashes of color appealing to her own vibrant nature. She paused to admire a white orchid, bending closer to examine the delicate freckling at its throat.
* * *
Josh Morgan stood silently in the doorway of the greenhouse. Alex had pointed it out earlier, indicating that he was welcome to visit it at any time. It was a large building, built in the early 1900s of thick glass and supported by a sturdy metal frame.
What drew his attention now wasn’t the riot of plants, although he glanced around with interest at the permanent display. No, what interested him was the tall woman in the pale green dress, her coppery hair glowing in a shaft of sunlight that pierced the tangle of leaves overhead. Her back was turned, and he studied her at leisure, his gaze lingering on a long, tanned leg, and then sliding up over her buttocks. As she bent to examine an orchid, the fabric clung to her slender body, revealing subtle curves that were deliciously feminine. Her breasts, while not large, were high and firm. His fingers tensed, his throat went dry and for the first time since he’d arrived on English soil he began to doubt himself.
There’ll be none of that,’ he told himself brusquely. The success of his mission depended on Olivia MacMillan. He felt a twinge of guilt at what he was about to do. But it was necessary. He hadn’t come halfway across the world to get involved. It wasn’t in his nature to be deceitful, but this was different. This was payback.
Shoving those thoughts to the back of his mind he forced himself to smile. He needed to convince her to accompany him to the Mediterranean.
* * *
Phaelanopsis.” Olivia stilled. His voice was exactly as she knew it would be… deep and resonant, with an underlying suggestion of heated sexuality. She straightened slowly, turning to face him.
Are you an orchid expert?” She tilted her chin, a deliberate challenge in her tone.
A slow grin raised the corner of his mouth and he took a step closer. “Busted. That’s the only one I know.” His eyes took inventory of the plants on either side of the aisle and came back to rest on her face. “But it is lovely.” His gaze lingered on her lips and she turned back to the flower, wondering if he could see the pulse pounding at the base of her throat. This was ridiculous! She didn’t even know the man.
I apologize for intruding like this.” He closed the distance between them, filling the space between the benches. With a sudden flash of insight, Olivia knew that this was a man who could be comfortable in any situation. Surrounded by an aura of quiet confidence, he epitomized the alpha male, with the emphasis on male.
She clutched at the edge of the bench, wondering briefly what had happened to her normal composure. “You’re not intruding,” she countered with a sideways glance. “But I think we should introduce ourselves.” She extended her hand. “I’m Olivia MacMillan. Justine and I are old friends.”
Her hand disappeared in his. His grip was firm. “Josh Morgan. A friend of Alex’s.” His hand was like the rest of him. Large and competent.
She looked into his eyes. They were a dark chocolate brown, shot through with warm glints of amber. “Josh Morgan. That sounds like a name in an American western.”
He tipped an imaginary hat. “That’s me, ma’am. Your all-American cowboy.”
You’re kidding, right?” She retrieved her hand. “You aren’t really a cowboy.”
Why not?” He cocked an eyebrow. “It’s one of the most honest professions in the world.”
Yes, I’m sure it is, but…” She stopped abruptly. “I’ve never met a cowboy before.”
He grinned. “Then you should come to my ranch some time. Although I confess the real cowboys are the men who work my spread.” He shrugged. “Some days the only riding I do is the chair in my office.”
Olivia nodded. “You have my sympathies. I’d be content if I never had to go near an office again. It’s… I don’t know… it’s suffocating.”
He looked at her appraisingly. “I feel the same way. That’s what’s so great about living on a ranch. When they coined the term ‘wide open spaces’ I think they had Montana in mind.”
She liked the way he spoke.
“‘Big Sky.’” She leaned against the bench opposite him. “When I first heard that term I envisioned skies so blue they make your eyes hurt. Is it anything like that?”
It’s better.” His voice was like a caress. “Where I live, the Rockies dominate the western sky. When the light hits them just right, it takes your breath away.” He looked down at her. “Of course you could explain it better. You have an amazing gift for writing about what you see...what you feel.”
You’ve read my work?”
I just said I did.” His eyes flashed. “You don’t believe me, do you?”
She regarded him coolly. Too many men before him had falsely claimed to read her work.
Boy, you’re tough,” he said. “Okay, let me think. I read your article a few months ago about the inner workings of casinos. You also wrote a very touching follow-up piece on Lockerbie and how that air disaster has changed the community. And more recently I read the stories about the Afghani women.” He shook his head and a subtle change came over him. “Although when I finished reading the last story I thought perhaps you should have called it ‘One Step Forward, Two Steps Back’, instead of the other way around.”
You understood!” She smiled up at him. “Thank you for reading between the lines.” She sobered. “It’s a strange, violent place.”
Olivia saw a flash of pain in the dark eyes. “What was it like over there?” he asked, his voice little more than a whisper. “Was it rough?”
Sensing that her reply was important, she thought for a moment. “Yes, it was rough, but I was so involved with the story, I can’t honestly say I noticed. The heat and the dust were unpleasant, but somehow when you believe in what you’re doing, you forget all about creature comforts. The most difficult thing was gaining the confidence of the women I wrote about; getting them to talk freely. Fortunately I had an excellent interpreter.” She smiled crookedly. “I apologize for not believing you. It’s just that…” she shook her head. “Never mind.”
Come on.” His tone was part teasing, part serious. “Don’t leave me hanging.”
She pretended to study a spray of orchids, gathering her thoughts. “It’s just that I’ve met some people who pretend to have read my stuff when in fact it’s obvious they haven’t.” She regarded him openly. “What are you doing here, Josh?”
Alex invited me.”
She waved away his reply. “No… I mean here. What are you doing in this greenhouse, talking to me? There are plenty of young women at the party who would welcome your company.”
Something molten shifted behind his eyes. “I have no interest in those other women.” His eyes roamed boldly over her body. “Whereas you…you’re different.”
Oh yeah…this one was dangerous. She tossed her head. “Don’t be ridiculous. You don’t even know me. Besides, you can’t just walk in here and throw a few compliments my way and expect me to fall at your feet.”
Oh?” A smile flirted with the corners of his mouth, and then moved to his eyes. “Why not?”
Olivia’s thoughts churned. “Because I’m a grown woman who knows her own mind, and I’m not interested in a relationship right now.” She cringed inwardly. That speech was so pathetic!
Well that suits me fine, because neither am I.” He still lounged casually against the bench. “I simply want to hire you. I want you to pose as my fiancée.”

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