Early Surrender (MF)
[BookStrand Contemporary Romance, HEA]
From her first glimpse of the bright lights, Jacelyn Montgomery-Allison knew she wanted nothing more than to move to the dazzling city of Las Vegas on her twenty-first birthday and become a blackjack dealer at one of the big, opulent casinos on the Strip.
But soon after finding her dream, Jacelyn made two critical mistakes. The first was falling madly in love with the charming, handsome Nick Corso. The second was surrendering it all at the first sign of trouble and marrying a man she didn’t love to give her baby--Nick’s baby--a father.
Now, eleven years later, just when she’s on the cusp of correcting the second with a divorce and building a bright new future with her son, fate brings Nick back into her life to turn her world upside down a second time. It’s not just her heart at risk in Nick’s game as Jacelyn chooses between trusting him and fleeing in early surrender again.
A BookStrand Mainstream Romance
- Bella Settarra
Two strong hands squeezed Jacelyn’s shoulders from behind, jolting her out of her reverie.
“Are you ready to go, Jackie?”
The memory of their first time together in combination with the physical contact sent shock waves down her spine, settling as a hot ember in her core. The reaction to his unexpected touch could not have been stronger if her shoulders had been bare skin.
She swiveled her chair, forcing him to drop his hands. “Go? I thought we would have a drink here.” She busied her hands, putting her phone in her purse, trying to regain composure.
“They really don’t like me to loiter around the casino when I’m finished working.” With a half grin that seemed to hide a private joke, he continued, “Anyway, I’m very hungry. Let me buy you a late dinner.”
She knew she wouldn’t be able to swallow anything past the lump in her throat, but wasn’t about to admit he had that affect on her. “That would be nice, Nick.” She pulled out her wallet to pay her bar bill, but his hand stopped her.
“Put this on my tab, Steve.”
Jacelyn saw the bartender nod in acknowledgment as she tucked her wallet away and rose from the stool.
“Shall we go?” With his hand comfortably under Jacelyn’s elbow, he ushered her through the busy casino and out the smoked glass doors to his awaiting car.
“I see your taste in cars hasn’t changed,” she said with a honey-sweet smile as she eyed the perfectly polished, brand new black Camaro ZL1 parked at the curb, her statement hinting at sarcasm.
“My taste in many things hasn’t changed, Jackie,” he answered through a sly grin, openly scanning her petite body and then challenging her with his eyes to question his meaning.
She darted her eyes to the cement curb as he opened the passenger door and waited for her to climb into the car. He closed the door firmly after her and walked around to the driver’s side. Sliding in behind the wheel, he roared the engine to life.
“Sounds powerful. V-8?” she asked, attempting to keep the conversation light.
“Five hundred eighty horsepower, five hundred fifty-six foot pounds of torque,” he said with the prideful grin men get when having an impressive car or winning sports team.
“Men and their cars. What is it about wanting the biggest and the best?”
“Oh, it’s not so different with you women. Size matters, especially to you.” He glanced over, daring her with a look to take the subject further.
She didn’t know if he meant her specifically or all women but knew the direction of the conversation turned down a path she wasn’t ready to tread with him. Although she was over thirty, married, and a mother, Nick made her feel like a naïve twenty-one year old again. She turned her eyes to the windshield. She thought she heard him snicker but refused to look his way.
As he turned toward Downtown, Jacelyn instinctually knew where he was going and her stomach churned with the realization. He was taking her to the same lounge as their first night together. Is he intentionally being cruel or just completely dense? She closed her eyes, visualizing ocean waves washing up on shore to calm her nerves.
With her pulse more settled, she filled the silence surveying the interior of the car. It was nice, top of the line with all the modern luxuries the old car lacked, GPS, Bose surround sound, and heated seats. The scent of the leather took her back to that first ride, that other car. His cologne was different now, as musky, but smelled like a more expensive brand.
“This is a very nice car, Nick. An impressive step up from the ‘67.”
“Yeah, I like the modern comforts. I still have the ‘67 though, restored and garaged. If you’re in town long enough, maybe we could take it out. You know, for old time’s sake.”
Jacelyn couldn’t understand why Nick was purposely being so cruel. He surely must realize his throwing their first night together in her face would be extremely painful to her. After all, he had been the one who had used her so carelessly. If it had been she who threw him away, then she’d understand.
As he pulled into the parking lot and shut off the engine, she tried her hardest to keep her growing resentment below the surface, and maintain the calm façade she wanted him to see. I won’t let him get to me. He walked around to her side, presumably to open her door for her, but she had already popped open the door and was half-out of the car by the time he reached her.
He extended his hand to help her, but she just looked at it as she used the door’s armrest to give her the boost. He closed the steel door with a knowing grin as though knowing her small act of independence was her way of proving to him that she was no longer the young passive girl he had once known, but instead, a strong mature woman.
They walked in silence to the familiar brass door of the restaurant and lounge, this time with her hands at her side. With each progressing step, Jacelyn was being plagued with the unsettling feeling that tonight could too easily end as their first night had. In bed. She unconsciously shook her head. No, he could not lure her by his charm this time. He would not use her as a sex toy again.
Opening the polished door with one hand, he placed the other on the small of her back. His casual touch sent renewed quivers up her already tingling spine. She was irritated with herself for allowing him to affect her like this. By all rights, she should hate this man.