The man behind the pinstripes!
Lanie Smith’s boss might look heavenly in a suit, but she’s being run ragged by Grayson Manning’s outrageous demands! Dog-sitting, clothes-shopping…there’s nothing he won’t ask her to do! (Luckily she’s spent enough time checking out Gray’s broad shoulders that guessing his shirt size isn’t a problem…)
The final straw? Being ordered to drop everything for a business trip to Vietnam. But one completely unexpected and completely magical kiss later Lanie’s finally forced to admit the truth – that their super-charged battle of wills hides a much more dangerous attraction…! ”
Lanie’s story explores the idea that sometimes you’re never going to quite achieve what you wanted. And that’s a terrifying concept – and one that’s sensitively and cunningly explored. Restarting is the scariest thing – but often can help you look at the world anew.
So Lanie starts again, taking a role she knows very little about, and learns how to let herself have fun, let go and enjoy what life throws at her. And when life throws Gray into her path, well, who wouldn’t be thankful? – Exploits of a Chick Lit Aficionado
Another KISS title that made me swoon. Gray’s pretty detached at first, but after I got to know him I liked him. I could see why he was so distracted all the time, and it really made me sad that he was having trouble with the family business. Lanie’s backstory was so bittersweet. Reading about her having to watch as her sister swims, and then watching her agonize over what to do with her life… again, heartwrenching. Then observing the two of them find each other… *sigh*
Great story – some pretty heavy things to think about, and let’s not forget – an adorable dog. 4.5 stars & “HJ Recommends” – Harlequin Junkie
Read an excerpt
With a gasp, Lanie Smith sat up abruptly, her floppy straw hat dislodging onto her lap and her towel a tangle amongst her hastily rearranged legs. What on earth?
A shockingly cold nose pressing insistently against her knee answered that question. The large dog, its long red coat soaked in salt water and decorated generously with beach sand, nudged her leg, then flicked its liquid chocolate gaze hopefully in her direction.
‘You lose something, buddy?’
Lanie leant forward, searching amongst the folds of her towel. The dog found its soggy-looking target first and snatched the ball up, backing a quick handful of steps away before going still and staring at her again.
‘You want me to throw it?’
Knowing there was really only one answer to that question, Lanie pressed her hands into the sand and climbed to her feet. She shook her head a little, still fuzzy from her impromptu nap.
One minute she’d been reading her paperback the next She glanced up at the sky, looking for the sun, and breathed a silent sigh of relief when she realised it was still low and behind her. At least she hadn’t slept for long.
Not that sleeping the day away would have been such a disaster. It wasn’t as if she had a million other things to do.
The dog came closer and dropped the ball with a dull plop at her feet. Hurry up.
Lanie couldn’t help but smile.
‘Okay, okay, buddy—here we go.’
With barely a grimace as her fingers wrapped around the slobbery ball—there was enough water here at North Cottesloe beach to wash her hands, after all— Lanie weighed up her throwing options. Back towards the water, from where the dog had obviously come? Or along the shore ?
The deep voice stilled Lanie’s movements. The dog momentarily glanced in the direction of the obviously familiar voice before refocussing his rapt attention on the ball.
A man loped across the blinding white sand towards her. He was shirtless, wearing only baggy, low-slung board shorts and a pair of jet-black sunglasses. The morning sun reflected off toned olive skin that glowed with exertion, and he ran a hand through slightly too long dark brown hair as he approached, leaving it standing in a haphazard arrangement.
Lanie found herself patting uselessly at her own brownish hair—which, in contrast, she was sure had not been rakishly enhanced by the combined effects of sand, wind and the fact that she’d done no more than loop it into half a ponytail before walking out of the house this morning.
‘Luther!’ the man said again.
The dog moved not a muscle, every line of his body focussed on Lanie’s hand.
For the first time the man glanced in her direction.
And it was only a glance—as brief and uninterested as Luther’s when he’d heard his owner call his name.
‘Are you planning on keeping his ball?’ the man asked, shifting his weight from foot to foot as he waited for her response.
Lanie blinked behind her own sunglasses. ‘Pardon me?’
He sighed, twisting his wrist to look at his watch. ‘Can you please give Luther his ball? Soonish would be great.’
The ball dropped from Lanie’s fingers, but the big red dog pounced as excitedly as if she’d thrown it miles away. Now he crossed the short distance to his owner, and moments later the ball was whizzing through the air and into the shallow waves. The dog followed with huge, galumphing, splashing strides.
The man left too, without a backward glance, jogging the exact parallel distance from the lapping waves as he did every single morning.
‘You’re welcome,’ Lanie said to his rapidly retreating broad shoulders.
What a jerk.
She knelt to stuff her towel and book into her canvas tote bag, and covered her windblown hair with her hat. Well, at least now she knew.
In the past weeks she’d come to recognise most of the early-morning regulars at the beach—the dedicated open water swimmers who swam at seven a.m. every day, come rain, hail or shine. The walkers—both the walking-for-exercise and the walking-because-the-beach-is-gorgeous types. The joggers, the surfers, the sunbathers—and of course the dogs.
That man was also a regular. Unlike the others, who would greet Lanie with a familiar nod or smile each morning, this man appeared to be absorbed completely in his own world. He went for his run, his dog zipping about the shore in his wake—and then he left. That was it.
Dark and interesting, Lanie had thought whenever she’d seen him. Private. Intense.
She wouldn’t have been human not to wonder about a man like that. What did he do? What was his name? Was he married?
Not that she’d harboured any ridiculous daydreams. Lanie was, if nothing else, pragmatic.
But still—she’d wondered.
And now she had the only answer she needed. So, what was he like? Rude. Definitely.
Oh, well. No great loss—he could still add to her beautiful view each morning. A personality deficiency wouldn’t impact on that.
With her shoes dangling from her fingers, Lanie followed a path through the green scrub-tufted dunes towards Marine Parade. Small white shells mixed amongst the sand dug into the soles of her feet. When she hit the footpath she dropped her shoes to the ground so she could step into them. The concrete was surprisingly warm, despite the lukewarm winter day.
It was Tuesday, so the Norfolk-pine-lined street was mostly empty, not crammed with cars fighting for every available space as was typical throughout summer weekends. Across the road, multi-million-dollar homes faced the cerulean ocean, with a single cafe nestled amongst their architecturally designed glory. The cafe’s white-painted tables and chairs spilled outside, protected by brightly covered shade cloth sails and decorated with blue glass bottles filled with yellow daisies. Lanie’s house was a two-minute walk up the hill—but a wave from the grey-haired man amongst the empty tables drew her attention.
‘Lanie!’ he called out, pausing his energetic sweeping to prop himself against a broom. ‘Morning! Did you swim today?’
She smiled as she shook her head. ‘Not today.’ ‘Tomorrow?’
They followed this script every day. ‘Maybe.’
The man grumbled something non-distinct, but his opinion was still crystal-clear.
‘Tell me what you really think, Bob,’ she said dryly.
‘Such a waste,’ he said—just as he had yesterday—then patted one of the table tops. ‘Coffee?’
Lanie nodded. Along with her early-morning beach visits, coffee at the eponymous Bob’s Cafe had become part of her daily routine.
She slid onto the wooden chair, careful to avoid Bob’s scruffy-looking apricot poodle who slept, oblivious, at her feet. Bob didn’t wait to take her order, just shuffled inside to brew her ‘usual’: flat white, no sugar, extra shot of coffee.
On the table was today’s newspaper, and automatically Lanie flipped it over as she waited.
A giant colour photograph almost filled the back page: a familiar, perfect, blinding white smile; slicked back, damp blond hair and eyes identical to those she saw in the mirror each day—except Sienna’s were a sparkling azure blue, not brown.
‘Hazel,’ her mum always said. ‘Not brown. If you only made more of them, Lanie, they’d be your best feature!
‘Another gold medal,’ Bob said, sliding a large mug and saucer onto the table.
Lanie shrugged. ‘I know. She’s doing really well. This is a great meet for her.’
Meet. Quite the understatement.
Bob raised his white-flecked eyebrows.
‘I mean it,’ Lanie said—and she did. ‘I’m thrilled for her. Very proud of her.’
Her sister was in London, living Lanie’s dream.
No, Sienna’s dream. Lanie’s dream had ended months ago, at the selection trials.
Lanie held her mug in her hands for a few moments, then raised an eyebrow at Bob, who still hovered.
‘It’s the relay tonight,’ Bob said.
‘Uh-huh.’ Lanie took a too-quick sip and the hot liquid stung the roof of her mouth. She pressed her tongue against the slight pain, dismissing it.
Bob didn’t push, but she felt the occasional weight of his gaze as he swept around her. He was a sports nut—pure and simple. Fanatical, actually—he had to be to have recognised her that first morning she’d emerged from her mother’s house. Lanie Smith was far, far from a household name. Sienna Smith—well, that was another story. A story that could be read in the sports pages, in gushing women’s magazines, or even in lads’ mags accompanied by pictures of her in far more revealing bathers than her sister wore at swim-meets.
It didn’t bother her. Her younger sister was suited to the limelight and she deserved it. Lanie was much happier in the shadows and perfectly satisfied with her accomplishments as a world-class relay swimmer. Besides, she certainly didn’t crave the adulation that Sienna seemed to draw like a magnet.
Mostly satisfied. Lanie mentally corrected herself. Mostly satisfied with her accomplishments.
Absently she flicked through the sporting pages, full of photos of winners on podiums.
‘Wish it was you?’
She hadn’t realised Bob had approached her table again, and she glanced up in surprise. ‘Of course not,’ Lanie replied—snapped, really. Immediately she wished she could swallow the words. ‘I’m retired,’ she clarified, more calmly.
He nodded and drifted politely away again—but Lanie didn’t miss the questions, and maybe concern, in his eyes.
She stood and left a handful of coins on the table, trying to ignore how her eyes had started to tingle and squint.
It was the sea breeze.
She slung her bag onto her shoulder and took big, brisk strides to exit the cafe and get home as quickly as possible.
She’d walked past three huge mansions, heading towards the street where her mother’s small neat cottage was, when something caught her eye.
The glint of sun off a sweaty, perfectly muscled chest.
He jogged along the footpath on the opposite side of the road. His dog was now on a lead, intermittently gazing up at his owner in adoration.
Lanie felt herself tense, for no reason she could fathom.
She’d slowed her walk, but now she deliberately sped up—back to the pace she’d been before.
She didn’t care about that guy. Didn’t care if he was rude. Didn’t care what he thought of her.
Didn’t care what Bob thought.
Didn’t care what her sister thought. Didn’t care what anyone thought.
She held her head high and walked briskly past. With purpose.
But out of the corner of her eye she couldn’t help but watch the man.
And notice that he paid her absolutely no attention at all.
It was as if she were invisible.
Text Copyright © 2013 by Leah Ashton
Cover Art Copyright © 2013 by Harlequin Enterprises
Permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin Books SA. Cover art used by arrangement with Harlequin Enterprise Limited. All rights reserved. ® and ™ are trademarks owned by Harlequin Enterprises Limited or its affiliated companies, used under license.