by Martha O'Sullivan
In Second Chance, star-crossed lovers Lindsay Foster and Brian Rembrandt get a second chance at love amid the brilliant blue waters of Lake Tahoe. In Chance Encounter, Delaney Richards and Mike Savoy's quest for love takes them from Tahoe's fawn-colored shores to the serpentine streets of San Francisco. And the heat in Last Chance comes not from the blazing summer sun and rugged, white-hot sand, but from the prurient fervor between friends-turned-lovers Moira Brody and Paul Webster.
Moira Brody knows Paul Webster better than he knows himself. But neither one of them know that he as in love with her as she is with him. These lifelong friends will have to look at each other with fresh eyes and brave hearts. Moira will take an epic leap of faith and Paul will take the ultimate risk--again. They'll come full-circle, but there will be plenty of collateral damage along the way. And even the single-digit temperatures and snowcapped peaks of the Lake Tahoe winter are no match for their long-bridled desire.
Martha O'Sullivan has loved reading romance novels for as long as she can remember. Writing her own novels is the realization of a lifelong dream for this stay-at-home mom. Martha writes spicy, contemporary romances with traditional couples and happy endings. She is the author of the Chances trilogy from Red Sage Publishing. Her current work-in-progress is steamy Christmas novel set in Florida. A native Chicagoan, she lives her own happy ending in Tampa with her husband and two daughters. Please visit http://www.marthaosullivan.com for reviews, excerpts and more.
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Excerpt (PG-13) from Last Chance by Martha O'Sullivan
Excerpt (PG-13) from Last Chance by Martha O'Sullivan
The black ice cast an eerie sheen on the road ahead and the glare of the oncoming high beams had Paul squinting as if at the summer sun. The weather was coming in fast and he wondered if Moira had gotten home safely.
Or at all.
He should've gotten her roses.
But he didn't.
Because she's...Moira. Effortlessly beautiful, remarkably grounded, perpetually good-natured Moira.
And tonight she was something else.
In tight-fitting jeans and a scooped-neck top he'd never seen before.
With her freshly washed, begging to be touched spiral curls skimming her shoulders.
And eye makeup.
With red lipstick.
She smelled pretty good too. Like spring rain and lilac laced with desire.
All for the guy begging for roses at the flower shop. For someone he'd been "interested in" for a while. For whom he had a last minute arrangement thrown together.
From his cuttings.
For his girl.
Paul huffed out a harried breath.
Is that what she was?
But he sure as hell wanted her to be.
He slammed on the brakes and the Beemer swerved, then leveled, sliding into the precarious U-turn.
It took Paul twice as long as usual to get back into town with the slick roads. And by then the temperature had dipped enough to turn the spitting rain into pellets of steel. A frigid, damp sleet akin to the block of ice that had staked a claim in the pit of his stomach.
Turning the high-curbed corner, he heaved a halfhearted sigh of relief when he saw no car in the driveway and a hodgepodge of lights burning inside.
She was home.
Unless they came in one car, he prepared himself through gritted teeth.
Paul knew the garage code, but didn't want to scare her, so he opted for the conventional route. He could see her profile through the slates of the plantation shutters as he made his way up the flagstone path to the front porch. She was in the kitchen fussing with something, still dressed up like she hadn't been home long.
Alone, it would seem.
His throat muscles contracted as his mind began to race. Had her date seen her home or had they parted ways at the office? Gone somewhere for a drink after dinner? Made another date? He looked on as Moira stepped back from the beaded board kitchen island, arms drawn across her chest, and appraised her work. The midnight blue jeans sat just below her hips, hugging every one of her curves from hip to ankle and Paul found himself disturbingly covetous. The sheer shirt rested at her waistline and when she bent over, the dimples at the small of her back implored him to wonder what came next. And her breasts looked bigger somehow, like they'd grown overnight. The mere thought of it made his heart skip a beat and his cock begin to grow ridged.
Seemingly pleased with her work, she reached for the dish towel flung over her shoulder and dried her hands.
That's when she saw him out of the corner of her eye.
She did a double-take, then mingled with his soulful gaze momentarily. He thought the corners of her mouth curved slightly upward, but the distance between them was too great to be sure. She shook off whatever she was thinking and walked toward the front door. He visualized her on the other side, squeezing her eyes shut and taking a few deep breaths before opening it. She greeted him with a wobbly, "Hey."
She looked captivating in the amber light. Her eyes were languid and clung to his as if unwittingly attached. Her lips were naked now and Paul told himself it was from eating. The tendrils around her face had doubled, like some vagabond strands had fallen from the clip at the crown of her head. Also from natural causes, he forced himself to assume. "Hey," he returned. "Can I come in?"
"Of course," she invited blandly, ushering him in.
Stepping inside, Paul rapid-fired, "I'm glad you're home. I wanted to—"
"Where else would I be at eleven o'clock at night?" she cut him off.
"I don't know." His mind was suddenly a mare's nest and his palms were beginning to sweat. "I wasn't sure what your plans were for the rest of the evening."
"I've been home for almost an hour," she informed him crisply.
"Alone?" His eyes scanned the house beckoningly.
"Yes," Moira patronized. "It was just dinner, Paul."
On Valentine's Day, he silently added. "About that, I came by to apologize." He wondered if she sensed the audible relief in his voice. "I shouldn't have assumed we'd see each other tonight. And I certainly shouldn't have assumed you'd be," he bit off the word, "available." He looked away then, into the cottage-style kitchen, and saw what she'd been working on.
She must have acquired clairvoyant powers in those few seconds, because her tone softened and she said, "I had to bring them home. They were too beautiful to waste."
No, like them.
With four wide steps he advanced into the antique white kitchen he'd designed. "Where are the roses?"
She followed him. "At the office."
"They're not too beautiful to waste?" he quickened in a thick voice, turning to face her.
"No, they are." Her breath hitched. "They're just not from you."
Her emerald saucers were filling behind their licorice lashes and she was biting her bottom lip, trying to hold back the tears. Paul couldn't have stopped himself from going to her if he'd wanted to.
"Moira, what are we doing?" he entreated, gripping her forearms. "What have I done? Have I lost you?"
She shook her head from side to side and her eyes began to empty, leaving sooty tire-like tracks on her china doll face. Tipping his head back in silent thanks, Paul took her in his arms. She moved into his body, sobbing through sawed-off breaths.
"Tell me nothing happened. Tell me there's nothing between you and him," he prayed out loud after an affecting moment.
She answered by burrowing her head deeper into his shoulder and wreathing his middle. He felt her breathing level off and he kissed the top of her coal-black mane. She smelled like a subtle version of earlier, infused with wine and garlic. Hope replaced the uneasiness in his stomach and he heard himself say, "I had to force myself not to go back there. I've been driving around for hours, going crazy."
She angled out of his grasp just enough to make eye contact. Suddenly she was the girl he used to know again, not the woman tying his insides into knots. Or maybe the perfect combination of both. Her eyes began to shine and a satisfied smile curved her lips. "You have?"
"Yeah. Like outside my mind crazy." He laid his lips on hers and tasted the salt from her tears. She melted into the kiss, then the next. He wondered if she could sense him growing behind the zipper. Or the spool of want unwinding into a thousand frazzled threads in his gut. Gasping for air, he released her mouth and cupped her face. "You make me crazy, Moira Brody. Absolutely crazy."
Her breath caught in her throat and her eyes began to swell again. She swallowed hard and allowed, "Then I like you crazy."
Resting his forehead on hers, he let the night roll down his back like a recalcitrant tumbleweed. Then he closed his eyes and appealed, "Do I need to fight for you, Moira?"
She laughed a little. "Well, Jason did bring flowers, dinner, wine."
"I brought flowers, dinner, wine," Paul defended high-mindedly, straightening. "Did you ever get the Chinese food?"
"Yeah, it's in there." She nodded over his shoulder at the sub-zero they'd picked out together.
"It's your favorite. Cashew chicken."
"Thank God," she gushed, dabbing the outer corners of her eyes. "I'm starving."
Paul's nose wrinkled. "Did Bernini's have a bad night?"
"Not from what I picked at."
"Poor guy," he gloated through a chuckle. "Went to all that trouble for nothing."
"I wouldn't say for nothing," Moira demurred, her eyes dancing with innuendo. "He seemed to enjoy the evening."
"Oh?" inquired Paul, stepping out of her embrace.
Gleaming now, she raised her eyebrows mischievously. "Yeah."
He felt his expression plummet. "Did he kiss you good night?"
"He did," preened Moira.
Paul couldn't believe how much that bothered him. "Did you want him to?"
Her face instantly sobered. "No," she avowed, then finished with hushed care. "I wanted you to come back."
"I did." As if he'd had any choice in the matter. Paul drew her to him again and ran his hands up and down her willowy back. "I had to."
"That was all I could think about during dinner," she lamented into the crook of his shoulder. "That I could've spent Valentine's Day with you."
"Don't let it happen again." He leaned back and dried her tearstained cheeks with his thumbs. "I know I won't," he warned gallantly.
"I didn't want it to happen to begin with."
"Good to hear." He kissed her nose with the puissance of a snowflake. "Think he'll call you?"
She shrugged matter-of-factly. "Yeah."
"What will you say?"
"What should I say?" Her voice was hopeful.
"No." He reached into his jacket pocket. "And thank you."
Her eyes narrowed in confusion as she took the red velvet box from his open hands. "What is this?"
He gestured toward the white satin bow-topped lid with a tip of the head. "Open it and find out."
Moira obliged as Paul looked on eagerly. A tiny gasp escaped her throat when she saw the studs inside.
"I know they're on the small side, but you're not one for flash."
She glided her fingertips over each diamond. "They're beautiful."
"Megan thought they were perfect." Just like you, he almost said.
Her astonished gaze shifted upward. "Megan?"
"She's not sick. She found another sitter for tonight." He paused to let the benevolent betrayal sink in. "So we could spend Valentine's Day together."
"Oh, Paul! I'm so sorry!" she effused. "I had no idea."
Neither did he. Until just now. And the realization hit him like a ton of bricks. "You can make it up to me tomorrow night," he told her extemporaneously. "We're going on a date. It'll be our first one."