BY SARAH CASS
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Michaela O’Keefe is in over her head with her restaurant, The Midway. Her ad for an assistant manager brings Owen “Tag” Montague to her doorstep. With an impeccable resume and dozens of letters of recommendation, she has little choice but to give him a chance. Ten years her junior, Tag sets her long-dead libido humming, but she gave up on love and her instincts on men years ago.
Tag has had a crush on his new boss since his youth, but he’s determined to prove he can do the job. Still, he can’t resist the urge to make her blush down to her toes as often as possible. He knows her rough past in life and love makes it hard to trust, and he’s wary of crossing the line he so desperately wants to.
Just when they manage to figure out how to work and play together, Michaela’s ex does all he can to destroy their budding love. When push comes to shove Michaela’s inability to give Tag the benefit of the doubt might destroy everything.
Learning to trust herself again is the hardest lesson Michaela will ever have to learn – and by the time she does, it may be too late for love.
“I…What?” Whether she meant to or not, her hands wrapped around his forearms and held tight like she feared falling over.
“It’s terrible. You’re my boss. Kayla, I know that. And I had a crush on you for years before you ever hired me. But getting to know you, the real you, when you let me in, changed that. I don’t think it’s a crush any longer.”
“This isn’t nice,” she whispered. Tears glimmered at the edge of her eyes. When she blinked, several shimmered on her long lashes. “Don’t tease me like that.”
“I’m not teasing.” He released one of her elbows to brush aside a tear with his thumb. “That ‘Hot for Teacher’ line was crass and stupid. It also wasn’t entirely true. Yeah, I’m hot for teacher, but I’m more impressed with who you are.”
“You don’t—you can’t—I…” She took several deep breaths and her eyes fluttered closed. After a moment she let out a choked laugh. “I can’t even form a sentence.”
“You just did.” The breath he’d been holding released when she laughed in reply. “I’m sorry. Maybe I shouldn’t have—”
“Eve and I used to call you jail bait.” In a good sign, she still hadn’t released her grip on his arm, and she hadn’t moved away. “I knew it was dangerous hiring you. I just didn’t realize that it was dangerous because of more than your looks. I think you’re a good guy. I honestly didn’t believe those existed.”
“I’m glad you see me that way. Is there a ‘but’ to that statement?”
“Let me count the ways.” She took a deep breath, and started talking fast. “I’m ten years older; I’m seriously messed up; I don’t trust anyone, not even my friends. I’m also not very good at relationships. Never was. Just because I was married means nothing. In fact, it might have made me worse. And last, but not least, I am your boss and I can’t get sued for sexual harassment. I have no money.”
“Breathe, Kayla.” He released her other elbow and wrapped his arms fully around her. “First off, I told you age doesn’t matter. Second, I know you don’t trust easy, and I know you’re messed up. Third, no relationship is the same. Lastly, I am not going to sue you. If anything I was harassing you a little bit.”
“So you were flirting with me? All this time?”
“You bet your sweet little ass I was.”
“This could be a really huge mistake, Owen. I don’t know that I can handle any more of those in my life.” Her lips drew together in a small ‘O’ and she blew out a long breath.
“It could be, but how about this? It’s not a relationship. We’ll just take it a day at a time and see where it goes. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t.”
“I’m really messed up. So much more than you know. You’ve got so much ahead of you. You shouldn’t be thinking about trying anything with someone so jaded.”
“Maybe I like that you’re jaded.”
Her forehead puckered. “Then you’re messed up.”
“So we’ll be messed up together.” He was rewarded with the sweet sound of her laugh. With one finger hooked under her chin, he tilted her head up. “We’ll try. All I ask is if you have a problem, tell me—and give me the benefit of the doubt.”
“I’ll promise to try.”
“I’ll take it for now.” He bent toward her, close enough to hear her sharp intake of breath when he got close to her lips. A smile took over in the instant before he pulled her into a slow, soft kiss.
Her lips were soft and inviting, drawing him after only a moment’s hesitation. The sweet taste of cotton candy lingered, and he brushed his tongue across the seam of her lips. Her small gasp granted him the chance he wanted and he swept his tongue through her warm mouth.
The cold chill of the evening was replaced with growing warmth as her arms wrapped around him and she relaxed against his body. Her every response to his kiss was tentative, and he tried to keep himself in check, even as each simple brush of her tongue against his drove him crazy with need.
He retreated slowly from the sweet taste of cotton candy and strawberries that was her kiss and pressed his forehead to hers. “I’ve wanted to do that for a long time.”
“The feeling’s mutual.”
“What else have you wanted to do?” Once again he was rewarded with the deep hues of a blush. “God, you’re gorgeous when you blush.”
“No, I’m not.”
“Yes, you are. Why do you think I try to make it happen so much?”
She bit her lips and shook her head.
“At least now I know I’m not the only one with fantasies.”
What Others Are Saying
I loved this book! The characters were so real and likable, and the story so well-written it sucked me right in. I couldn't put the book down, wondering just how Tag and Kayla were going to get together.
~ Jean ★★★★★
A sweet romance with all the right ingredients: Handsome leading man, shy leading lady, shady ex-husband, small town.
~ V.L. Locey ★★★★
The story of Michaela and Owen is breathtaking. You will not only be wanting to laugh but you will feel their pain. The details are written well, and well you will be left to use your imagination but not in a bad way. It is a very fast paced and easy read that will play through your head like a movie.
~ Amanda ★★★★★
About the Author
Sarah Cass' world is regularly turned upside down by her three special needs kids and loving mate, so she breaks genre barriers; dabbling in horror, straight fiction and urban fantasy. She loves historicals and romance, and characters who are real and flawed, so she writes to understand what makes her fictional people tick. And she lives for a happy ending - eventually. And enough twists to make it look like she enjoys her title of Queen of Trauma Drama a little too much.
An ADD tendency leaves her with a variety of interests that include singing, dancing, crafting, cooking, and being a photographer. She fights through the struggles of the day, knowing the battles are her crucible; she may emerge scarred, but always stronger. The rhythms to her activities drive her words forward, pushing her through the labyrinths of the heart and the nightmares of the mind, driving her to find resolutions to her characters' problems.
While busy creating worlds and characters as real to her as her own family, she leads an active online life with her blog, Redefining Perfect, which gives a real and sometimes raw glimpse into her life and art. You can most often find her popping out her 140 characters in Twitter speak, and on Facebook.