It’s a week until Scandalous Secrets is available. I can’t believe it’s here already. This year, with all it’s ups and downs, has gone by quickly.
I’m excited about the latest installment of the Jackson Falls Series. I hope you are, too. To give you an idea of what’s in store, check out this Tuesday Teaser!
THIRTEEN YEARS AGO Byron Robidoux had saved her life. He’d been her best friend and the only person she’d known who’d been nice to her without expecting something in return. Believing he was really a nice guy had taken a while, but as she’d worked beside him on various volunteer projects, she’d been pleasantly surprised. She’d never met anyone like Byron before. Stupid rich, suave, super likeable and serious about making a difference in the world. She’d been drawn to his optimism and believed the hype when he said everyone could do something to make society better.
In the years since accepting his help then running away, she’d wondered what her life would have been like if she’d been smarter and fallen in love with him. If she’d chosen Byron instead of believing the garbage example of a relationship her parents had shown her as the standard for “real” love.
Thoughts of what could have been didn’t matter now. Too much time had passed and they’d both moved on with their lives. That didn’t stop Zoe from hurrying down the hall with barely suppressed excitement at the idea of seeing Byron again.
She walked into the visitors’ waiting room at the front of the building. The room was decorated with stark gray walls, two plastic tables with chairs for visitors having lunch with an employee, and a few vending machines. The place wasn’t designed to encourage lounging or long visits. A man stood with his back to the door and faced the television mounted to the far wall with a game show playing on the screen.
Zoe stopped short. He was tall with broad shoulders and stood with his arms crossed and legs wide. He was dressed casually in a pair of loose jeans and navy T-shirt with a baseball cap on his head. In all the time she’d known Byron Robidoux he’d never worn jeans, T-shirt or a ball cap that didn’t look as if it had been put together by a personal stylist.
Her heartbeat kicked up a notch. She’d assumed the fake name was for Byron. That assumption could be dead wrong. The threatening email she’d asked Rose to check out could mean someone out there was really pissed at her. What if it had been a warm-up to this meeting?
She slid one foot back, panic and fear she hadn’t felt in a long time tightening her throat. She bumped into the trash can by the door. It toppled over, metal clanging against the concrete floor and spilling paper and aluminum cans everywhere.
“Shit!” she whispered. There she went, auditioning for the least graceful woman of the year award again.
The guy spun around. Whiskey-brown eyes met hers and widened. Zoe froze halfway down to pick up the items she’d spilled. Her mouth fell open.
“Byron?” No way. This man in front of her couldn’t be the Byron she’d been friends with in college. The few times she’d looked him up on the internet or saw a news clip of him did not accurately reflect how good he looked in person. Seriously, she knew some guys tended to age into sex gods, but this was something different.
Or maybe it’s just been that long.
Byron looked the same but more mature. The boyish features that had made him handsome in college had sharpened into a refined, grown and sexy look. His body was thicker, more filled out, and based on his biceps and forearms he’d filled out with muscle. The five o’clock shadow he used to always try to shave, which had given him charm, was now a full-on well-manicured beard that made it damn near impossible for her to not focus on his lips. Had his lower lip always been that full? That…kissable?
“Hey, Zoe, sorry to pop in on you like this.”
Even if her eyes didn’t want to accept that the fine-as-hell guy in front of her was her good friend from college, Byron’s voice got through to her brain. Deep, cultured and smooth enough to make a woman’s panties fly off.
The corner of his lip lifted in a half smile. One of his thick brows quirked up. Confusion clouded his eyes. Zoe snapped her mouth shut and straightened quickly. No need to stand there like a deer caught in headlights.
She forced out the fog of desire trying to cloud her brain and reminded herself this was Byron. Way-too-rich, I-easily-get-whatever-I-want Byron. I’m-running-for-Senate and, if she remembered correctly, am-engaged-to-someone-else Byron.
“It’s okay. A big surprise, but okay.”
When his shoulders relaxed and the easygoing smile she remembered crossed his features, Zoe’s earlier excitement about seeing an old friend returned. She crossed the room and automatically opened her arms to hug him.
“It’s so good to see you,” she said.
Byron hesitated a beat before his arms spread and he wrapped her up in a hug. Not only did he look different, but he felt different, too. Harder, stronger, way more you know you want to press all up into me good. Her skin tingled and her nipples tightened. Zoe pulled back
quickly before he noticed, the faint smell of his cologne backing up with her.
Byron slid back, too. His eyes skated over her features before he ran a hand over his beard, and did the nervous nose scrunch she remembered that always reminded her of a rabbit. The movement made her smile and pushed away the lingering awkwardness of her reaction. This was Byron. It wasn’t as if she hadn’t looked at him in college and allowed a few what if thoughts to take over. That was all this was.
“Good to see you, too,” he said, finally meeting her gaze.
“Is everything all right? After I spoke with the detectives, I thought everything was settled.”
She’d been hurt when he’d sent a private detective to talk to her even if she’d understood. She’d run out on him without a backward glance after accepting his help. He’d sent someone to find her to make sure she wouldn’t try to come back and ruin his campaign. As much as she’d wanted to call Byron herself and curse him out for even considering she’d do something like that, could she really blame him for not trusting her?
“I thought everything was settled, too. Last night I was approached by someone and now they’re making demands.”
Zoe crossed her arms. She looked over her shoulder even though they were the only people in the room. Old habits were hard to break. “You know I won’t say anything.”
“That’s the thing.” He slid closer and lowered his voice. “I may need you to say something.”