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Berkley Intermix
June 18, 2013
ISBN 9781101616512

Unbuttoned

#Novella 1

Carly Denton has learned to keep her buttons and emotions firmly fastened. Her parents’ constant drama, and an unrequited crush on her brother’s best friend, taught her to keep her passion beneath the surface. But she can no longer avoid the one man with the ability to bring that passion to a boil...

Lucas remembers Carly as a freckle-faced tomboy—not a frosty woman who treats him like a burr under her saddle. But when they must work together on a charity project, Lucas is shocked to find their bickering melt into some serious mutual attraction. He’s determined to show Carly that he’s the man for her, if only she’d learn to let loose.

Lucas is the last man on earth Carly should give in to. The freedom she finds in his arms has her feeling happier than ever, but is it enough to make her realize that the greatest risk isn’t losing your heart, but losing the chance at happiness?

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Excerpt

Lucas sometimes wondered if Carly Denton reserved that facial expression particularly for him. He’d never seen her make it at another person. She smiled at most people, even complete strangers. But not at him. With him, those normally lush, pink lips were pulled into a tight line, blue eyes glittering with a kind of cool disdain that warned him to keep his distance.

In her defense, he’d just walked into her office unannounced and late in the day. He hadn’t even given her a chance to fake being okay with his presence, which she did a decent job of sometimes.

Not today, but sometimes.

“I was just about to leave, Lucas. You don’t have an appointment, do you?” She straightened, shoulders back, fine brows arched. She looked like a strict headmistress. Which, he had to admit, a part of him kind of liked.

The office was just as severe as the woman. A showcase for just how neat and orderly she was, and lacking in any personality. Pictures on the wall of places he knew she’d never been to. A bookshelf filled with books that were probably just there because the leather bindings and gilded lettering looked nice, not because there was anything interesting in them. Because for Carly, it was all about image.

Given the image her family had presented to the community during her childhood, he couldn’t really blame her. But it didn’t mean she couldn’t stand to be loosened up, either.

He took his hat off and set it on her desk, palms flat on the glossy surface. He knew invading her space like that would annoy her. Knew that cluttering up that pristine surface would get her back up. But he considered attempting to loosen Carly up a bit of a hobby. Though she always resisted.

“Nope. But I had some important things to talk to you about concerning the Ridefor Hope.”

“What does that have to do with you?”

“I’m representing the Rodeo Association for this project.”

“What? No. You aren’t. I mean, it seems like someone would have told me.”

“Warned you?”

She spoke in a monotone, overly calm voice. “It’s just, you don’t normally do charity things, do you? I mean, unless it’s a bikini car wash.”

“I didn’t organize that. I did get my truck washed though, but in my defense, my truck was dirty.”

She arched one brow. “Was it?”

“Your brother went too, so unless you raked him over the coals for his attendance, I think you need to let it go.”

“I absolutely did rake him over the coals for it. That is simply not the kind of image we want Silver Creek to have. This town is about family.” She cleared her throat and sat back in the chair, her hands folded in front of her. She was so damn prissy.

She hadn’t always been. He could remember her, thirteen, barefoot, with mud up to her knees and her hair a tangled mess behind her. She’d had freckles then. She might still, but it was hard to tell with that coat of makeup spread over her face. It made her too perfect. Too clean.

Like her office, everything about Carly was a bit too something. Too clean, too perfect, too orderly. Her pink lipstick matched her pink nails. Her gray suit jacket was tailored perfectly, as were her gray pants. The pink shirt beneath, of course, matched the nails and lipstick. Blonde hair sleek, shiny and not one strand out of place.

She looked pretty disturbed by the mention of the car wash, and he wondered if he’d actually pushed her too far this time. Pushing her too far wasn’t his aim. If he did that she might boot him out of his office, and then he couldn’t play with her anymore.

“Ah, yes, sorry, I had a lapse. Well, when you’re done playing morality police maybe we could get back to the business at hand.”

“I don’t particularly want to do business with a man who considers dress clothes to be a pair of Wranglers that don’t have a hole in them.”

“And a bigger belt buckle.”

“Thank you for reinforcing my point.”

“I don’t really like having to deal with a woman who probably irons her socks, but this is about the charity. Do you think the other members of the Silver Creek City Council will be happy to know you chased the liaison for the event out the door with your special brand of meanness?”

She frowned, and for a moment, he wondered if he’d actually hurt her feelings. “I’m not mean.”

“You aren’t sunshine and light where I’m concerned, sugar. Never have been.”

“That’s because you’re . . .” He was sure she was about to spit out a particularly vile insult, but then thought better of it. Her lips puckered in tighter, and she looked like she was chewing on her words. Like she was trying to demolish them before they burst into the room and kneed him in the balls. “You and I don’t always see eye to eye.”

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