COSMO_0814_BreakingAllHerRules (2)

Harlequin
August 15, 2014
ISBN B00J8X2SPA

Breaking All Her Rules

Buttoned-up financial consultant Grace Song lives life by her own strict rules. Spontaneity leads to chaos. Always play it safe. So when she shares a Manhattan cab with a handsome stranger and they accidentally swap cell phones, her first instinct is to track him down and put things right. Stay on track. Stick with the plan.

But when beyond-gorgeous Zack Camden answers the door draped only in a towel, Grace is suddenly inspired to ditch her rules for a day…and a night. Indulging in one delicious encounter with a perfect stranger is just the break she needs. But one turns into two, then three mind-blowing nights—and soon Grace is in danger of breaking the biggest rule of them all—never fall in love….

 

Excerpt

Grace Song tightened her hold on her bag and swore internally as another cab passed her, a passenger in the back.

The bag was heavy, and she was running late after her disastrous lunch meeting. She did not need this right now. Not with her boss breathing down her neck like he had been. Not with the client from hell leering at her boobs and making comments about what she could do with his financials ifyouknowwhatImean.

 And then had come the wholly unsubtle: If you want the account, you might want to make this lunch date end in dessert.

            If he wasn’t such a valuable potential account she would have kneed him so hard his balls would have gone back up inside his body. Okay, she wouldn’t have done that. Because her default position was to freeze up. Because in her mind, inaction was often better than making the wrong move.

Somehow, she’d managed a curt, cold response and extricated herself.

And now she was going to be late for her next appointment because apparently, there were no cabs. She leaned toward the road and signaled again, a little more vigorously. She was just getting irritated now. And she knew if she let herself get too irritated she would get blotchy. And she didn’t want to meet a client while blotchy.

Her bag was heavy. It had her laptop, her iPad, her iPhone and a legal pad, because even though she had about a million electronic devices to help her organize things, she still needed to write things down physically most of the time.

She liked notebooks and shiny electronics. Everyone had their quirks. And she no longer had anyone in her life, taking up space in the apartment, telling her she had too many pens and things. So there was that.

She could have as many pens as she wanted. And framed pen-and-ink drawings of flowers and other frilly things. Independence was hers.

A cab, sadly, was not.

Another bright yellow car whizzed by and she resisted the urge to flip them her middle finger. She was flipping the world the bird on the inside, it was something she would never do on the outside. All vulgarities would be kept to herself.

Apparently, there was still someone who told her what to do. The calm, steady voice of her father, still in her head guiding her actions even though she hadn’t lived at home in twelve years.

She lifted her hand again when she saw another cab approach, and groaned when she saw the silhouette of someone in the back. Then the cab crossed a lane, cutting through traffic like a demolition-derby driver, before stopping at the sidewalk in front of her.

The driver lowered the window on the passenger side. “Where are you going?”

“The Stanton Building.”
He looked over his shoulder at the man in the back. “That’s out of your way.”
“I don’t care.”

The voice from the backseat was deep and masculine, kind of rough. And if Grace was in to that sort of  thing she might have been intrigued. But she didn’t have time to be in to that kind of thing. She was in to career advancement.

So exciting.

And getting a cab. She was seriously in to getting a cab even if she had to share it.

She opened the passenger door and got inside, dragging her giant bag with her and closing the door, running her hand over her hair to make sure it was still in place.

“Thank you,” she said, barely looking over at her companion. She leaned forward and started digging through the aforementioned giant bag. Her phone was in the top inner pocket, where she always put it. She hadn’t checked her email for ten minutes and she was feeling a little twitchy.

It felt all weird in her hand. Too hard and square. Plus, it was just plain black. Not at all to her taste. Since her pretty Kate Spade case had bit the dust in a freak trip-and-fling-the-phone-across-the-room incident a couple of days ago, she hadn’t had the time to go and replace it.

She unlocked the phone and punched the email icon, then waited while it connected to the server…and waited…and oh, gosh. Could it be any slower? They were in the middle of Manhattan for heaven’s sake. There should not be a black data hole right now.

“Busy?”

She looked to her left, her eyes landing on a denim-clad thigh was was…well, it was muscley. That much was evident even with the jeans. Then she looked up, and saw his hat. Skipped right over his face and to the white cowboy hat on his head.

And then she looked at his face. Blue eyes, dark brows, a square jaw dusted with some rough-looking stubble. Very interesting lips. Again, if she was in to that sort of thing.

“Yes,” she said, looking back down at her phone.

“I’m sharing a cab with you. You might look at me for more than two seconds.”
She bristled, looking over at him again. “Aren’t you supposed to be naked in Times Square.”

“I’m not that kind of cowboy.”

“Which kind are you?”

“The real kind.”

“Oh. Well. Please don’t tell me you have cows in the trunk.”

“Nope.”
“Great. Well.” She looked back down at her phone, her pulse doing a strange, fluttery thing at the base of her throat.

“My name is Zack,” he said. “Zack Camden. Are introductions not the thing in the big city?”

She rolled her eyes and put her hands flat on the seat, her phone still under her palm. “Grace Song.”

He stuck his hand out and she shifted, releasing her hold on the phone and moving to shake his hand. His fingers were rough, his skin hot. She felt a zip of lightning shoot through her, zipping straight to her stomach, making her feel all tight and weird.

Then he pulled away and she wondered, for one, heart-stopping moment, if he’d felt it, too. Then he reached into his pocket and took out his phone. Black, and unadorned, like hers. But hers wasn’t caseless by choice. His screen was probably getting all scratched up in his pocket. That…denim and his muscles. It was probably being crushed in there. Poor shiny iDevice.

“Sorry,” he said. “Normally I’d consider this rude but it’s work-related so…”

“What did you think my phone usage was—unicorn-related?” she asked, curling her lip.

“Funny,” he said, hitting the accept button. “Yep. Uh-huh. Landed about an hour ago. Going to the hotel. Nope. Nope. Not going. Nope. Hotel. `Bye.” He hung up, then set the phone on the seat between them.

“Business, huh?”

“Yep.”

“What sort of business?” she asked, completely unsure as to why she was bothering to play his little let’s-be-friends game.

“The business kind,” he said. “The kind you don’t wanna do, but have to because…business.”
She blinked. “I don’t understand not wanting to do business.”
He looked her over, his dark gaze assessing. “I bet you don’t.”

“What does that mean?”

“You look like a business type.”

She smoothed her plum pencil skirt and charcoal-grey jacket. She did not look businessy. She looked classy, feminine and well put-together. Though, she’d basically just confessed to being a workaholic, so maybe she should cut him some slack. Or not.

“And what does a business type look like?” she asked, crossing her arms beneath her breasts. He looked her over again and his gaze lingered, very obviously, on said breasts.

“It’s not a look so much. You seem kinda stiff. Although, also you just admitted you were a business type.”

“Fair enough.”

“What sort of business do you do?” he asked.

“I’m a financial advisor.” She wished she could take it back as soon as she’d said it. Because he hadn’t told her, so why was she telling him? Because deep down, she really was trained with manners, good graces and all kinds of things that didn’t exactly scream “ice-cold business bitch.” She was working on that. Mainly because if something about her demeanor screamed that a little louder she might not be fending off clients at lunch meetings.

The jerk.

“Very interesting. So you help people manage money?”

“People. Gigantic corporations. It’s not like I’m helping random citizens balance their check registers.” Oh, there was ice-cold bitch! Something about Zack the Cowboy seemed to bring it out. Along with an unhealthy bit of churning in her stomach.

“So if someone had investments, et cetera.”

“Got investments?” she asked.

“Maybe.”

“You don’t seem like the type.”

“No,” he said, leaning in slightly, whiskey-colored eyes clashing with hers, making it hard for her to breathe, “I’m the type who would have cows in the trunk of a cab in the middle of Manhattan.”

“You have to admit,” she said, her throat tightening, making it impossible for her to speak, “you’re a little out of place.”
“I feel perfectly comfortable. You’re the one who seems uncomfortable with me. What does that mean, do you think?” he asked, the side of his mouth quirking upward into one extremely cocky smile.

“I don’t know. I suppose the fox is never uncomfortable in the henhouse?”

His grin broadened. “Are you saying I’m a…predator? Among chickens?”

“Just trying a little animal analogy for your benefit, pardner. We’re New Yorkers, even if we are chickens, you come into our henhouse and we’ll mess you up.”

He laughed and she felt an answering smile tugging at her lips. “See? Isn’t this more fun than work email?”

Yes. Dammit.

“I live for work emails.”

“Well, I can’t compete with that.”

Dear Lord, was he flirting with her? She didn’t have a lot of experience with nonsketchy flirting. Most of it came in the form of overbearing, threatening comments that had a greasy film coating the words. It always made her feel violent. Of course, her response was typically just to sit there with her hands tightly folded.

This was different. She wanted to respond to this, rather than punch him in the face. Which was stupid. They were just sharing a cab to her office. And after that she wouldn’t ever see him again. Much less make good on any of the flirting.

Which was just as well, because hadn’t she just been celebrating her freedom from male tyranny in her personal life?

Yes…yes, she had.

Though, a little male tyranny in bed might be nice….

No. No, no, no. Maybe other women did that sort of thing, but she did not. She wasn’t a one-night-stand girl. She wasn’t a sex-for-the-sake-of-sex sort of girl.

She didn’t have time for that kind of stuff, plus, the idea of kissing a stranger, much less getting naked with him, was just a big fat no-go for her. That was for other types of people. Frivolous, irresponsible people. Like her sister, for example, who had left morals, common sense, clothing and all else by the wayside. And Grace had seen where that led.

She looked back at Zack and a sizzle of electricity skipped over her skin, making her feel tingly. And…it was a lot like her skin crawling. Just with heat instead of disgust.

Was she really, honestly thinking about sex in connection with a stranger in a cab? There was something wrong with her. Long work hours and a lack of sleep, or something.

It had been six months since Mark moved out, and she honestly hadn’t missed him—or his body—much. The split had been as gentle and amicable as the entirety of the relationship.

They’d sort of drifted into a relationship, then back out. And the best thing about drifting out of the relationship was that she hadn’t felt obligated to help him move out. Unlike when she’d been trying to impress him.

Lifting giant boxes with her spindly T. rex arms was pretty low on her list of things to do.

As was sex with a stranger. Lower. Lower than box-lifting. Which was low.

“No, nor should you expect to,” she said. “We’ve only just met, while I’ve had a deep, involved relationship with my work inbox since 2005.”

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