When a glamorous spa owner seduces the grumpy neighborhood bartender, passion smolders…
Ruby Naylor, confident, successful proprietor of Spa La La, has been crushing on Lachlan MacGregory for ages and finally throws herself at the grumpy bartender as he’s helping her tipsy butt home to her apartment above his pub.
Ruby is the only woman Lachlan has ever loved—from afar. When she makes a pass, he finally admits he’s wanted her for a long time. He leaves her that night with three promises—a kiss, a special connection between them and an epic tomorrow.
Unfortunately, when tomorrow arrives and Lachlan is smacked with the knowledge that she’s already in a relationship with two men, he feels he has nothing to offer her.
His day gets worse when his addict father is on his doorstep again, demanding money. The thought that he could end up sick and miserable like his father eats at Lachlan, making him focus on what has never let him down, his successful pub in the burgeoning Corvallis neighborhood.
Learning that Ruby is not taken, Lachlan finally goes all out to win her back. With his heartfelt apology, it’s easy for Ruby to forgive him—she believes in joy, in romance, in happy ever after. What she never expected was how vulnerable Lachlan could make her feel.
Can their love withstand life-shattering events to lead them into a beautiful future?
Reader advisory: This book contains mention of a parent suffering from addiction and some violence.
General Release Date: 9th November 2021
“Lachlan MacGregory, are you ever going to kiss me?” Ruby whispered. Leaving the key in the lock, she turned so they fit flush together, front to front. What’s a successful, sexy woman supposed to do anyway?
She’d been waiting for an eternity, it seemed, for Lachlan MacGregory to make a move, or accept her move. Okay, so it had only been a year and a half, but everyone knew time could be its own demon or goddess when love was concerned. Either way there was magic involved when sashaying around her feelings for Lachlan. It definitely felt more demon than goddess-inspired to her. Time she’d spent watching him casually date other women, while she herself had occasionally casually dated other men. They’d circled each other. And yet the forces had never aligned in their favor. Either that or neither one of them had been brave enough to step up.
Until now. Now she was going to ask for what she’d dreamed of. “I want you to kiss me.”
Aside from the deep burn in his gorgeous eyes, Lachlan’s face was stone and his entire body was rock-hard. Large and sexy, but most definitely a fortress at the moment. Or most moments, she’d found, during all the months she’d been drooling over him. She almost spun away from the freeze.
Maybe he’s not interested? It didn’t seem so, standing this close to him—even though he held himself like granite, his eyes gave him away. Using that courage, she searched into those golden-brown depths of his. Swirling pools of secrets or desire, or maybe both. They had a mind of their own and she’d caught him many a time sneaking glances her way. There were a few occasions when she’d almost made him laugh, and she’d taken them as wins. Stoic statue of a man. Does he even know how to laugh?
She hadn’t actually ever gotten a laugh from him, but she had gotten a different, more subtle and—in her mind—no less cute reaction. His mouth sometimes quirked up on one side while his left eyebrow did this little curve as if to say, “Give it your best, woman. You can’t break me. But it’s damn amusing to watch.” The man tried so hard not to show emotion, not to ask her out, not to kiss her. So, right this perfect minute when he was walking her upstairs to her apartment above his pub, when neither one of them was dating someone else, when the tango had put them smack-dab together, she’d decided to take matters into her own hands, and words and mouth. That’s what a confident woman does.
Or was it the hot-and-bothered woman in her? Because his body was so supremely close to hers, whisking all rational thought away from her. She’d tried flirting with him, and she’d tried ignoring him. It was time to ask for what she wanted, and hope, hope he felt the same. She leaned against him. He was a wall propping her up by her apartment door. She couldn’t take it one second longer. Pressing closer, she reached up and placed her hands on his shoulders. His hands immediately went to her waist. Oh, the warmth.
“You’re drunk,” Lachlan said. He looked down at his hands on her almost as if he couldn’t believe how they’d gotten there. One twitched and he gripped her, steadying her or himself—she wasn’t sure. But he didn’t pull away. When he began to move his thumb on her waist, searching little circles, exploring the tiniest bit of her, he watched, lost in her. Goody, goody, goody!
Lachlan’s fingers seared a brand on Ruby’s skin and almost took her legs out from under her. Nothing casual about our connection at all. She’d known it. And maybe that gave her the power to push her luck.
“Not drunk.” She pouted and got to see that almost-smile with the eyebrow betraying his attempt to remain stoic. Okay, maybe a teeny bit drunk, which did not dull the fact that she desired him.
“The gin and tonics were flowing to your table tonight, Ruby. And you ladies came in tipsy. I know Ellie wasn’t drinking them.”
This time there was no subtle eyebrow-lift, but both eyes—sparkly brown orbs that seemed to have a novel written in them, and boy she longed to read that story—lifted, his tone and his expression reprimanding. His voice was deeper. Perhaps because his eyes were both serious and searching, that reprimand went straight to her core. I wonder if he’d reprimand me in the bedroom?
She smiled, a full-on smile, because she, Ruby Naylor, had no problems showing her emotions, and leaned into his powerful muscles. “No, it wasn’t Ellie, although the ginger seltzer concoctions you made specially for her with the cute umbrella-cherry garnish were a huge hit and calmed her stomach. You thoughtful, thoughtful man.” Ruby gave his shoulders a gentle squeeze. My God, the man even has sexy shoulders, powerful, firm. She’d love to get her hands all over him, massage all his muscles, investigate each and every one.
“Besides, I’m tipsy from talking about love, dear man. I only had a few of your spectacular drinks. Ellie sipped her ginger drink while swooning over her life with Jackson and the new baby coming, and Natalie drinks like a sailor. But I’m not asking you to kiss Ellie or Nat, Lachlan MacGregory. I’m asking you to kiss me. Don’t you like me? It’s hard to tell some days,” Ruby purred. She was not above using all the tactics in her arsenal to seduce him. The man was a vault and she aimed to crash through, so he’d never know what hit him. Watching and waiting on the sidelines had gotten her nowhere, except a lot of great dreams. Now, Ruby sought the reality.
He’d offered to help her drunk butt upstairs, and even though she could have made it to her apartment above his bar perfectly fine, she wasn’t stupid. And whoosh, did it feel good to be so close to him. Finally. She was tipsy. Tipsy on Lachlan contact. It was a real thing, she could say, now that he was touching her.
His one hand clenched and unclenched at her side, then he slid it around to her back bringing them into a nice snug fit. What is happening? Maybe I am dreaming? His other one braced against the door behind her, almost as if he needed to balance himself, to hold on. And, holy smokes, he was looking at her now. Looking was too calm a word. His eyes had woken from their stoic slumber and were piercing and hot. And to have Lachlan MacGregory holding her, finally giving her the full direct force of his gaze? Oh, she could melt into a puddle. It was all too powerful.
“I like you.” His voice was deep and quiet, with a sharpened edge to it.
“I like you, too.” She watched those eyes of his, a page flipped over, or perhaps opened to her. “I’ve liked you for so long.” He blinked. But he didn’t focus on her eyes—he concentrated on her lips. A battle waged in his expression. To stay through the storm or run away to safety…which would he choose?
“Please,” she whispered. Please don’t run.
He tightened his grip on her, his fingers molding her through her jeans. “When I kiss you, I want you to remember it in the morning,” he rasped out. He was standing up taller now, all traces of casual disappeared into the night. He was intent.
Yay! He does want to kiss me! Ruby almost jumped up and down in cheers, but she settled for putting her hand on his cheek, unprepared for the sigh that wove through his body at her touch, how it sang through her nerves, but also gave her joy and strength. “I promise, Lachlan. I’ll remember. Will you?”
“Yes, beautiful, I’ll remember,” Lachlan said. He lifted her gently against the door and ghosted his lips over hers, sending shivers through her as he moved those amazing lips of his over her cheek and down her neck. Ruby’s head fell against the door, while the rest of her body tried so hard to stay molded to his. He stopped right beneath her ear. “I’ll remember how soft your skin is right here.”
Oh, my! It was a good thing that he held her up or she might have blown away from lack of oxygen. The man hadn’t even kissed her yet, and he’d stolen the breath from within her. And she could shoot herself for wearing a coat and her blouse tucked in when she craved the man’s hands all over her bare skin, not just the tiny patch where he’d snaked his fingers underneath the fabric to reach her waist. Although it might cause her to combust. She welcomed that combustion.
“I’ll remember how you smell, that fucking sexy, musky perfume you command.”
Huh. I was wrong, I am drunk. The man has skills. Command? Does he realize he’s going to brand me with his words?
Keeping her close, Lachlan took one hand away to unlock her door and walked her through the opening. Ruby had had no idea such intense concentration could be so fucking sexy. Lachlan’s heady gaze on hers, while walking them to her kitchen island, without a sound, added to the feeling that she was floating. A whimper escaped her mouth and she gripped his arms to hold on. This was not the time to close her eyes—this was her chance, warm in his embrace, to see his beauty up close. A man on a mission. And his mission was her. No distractions allowed. The power of that type of gaze mixed with his words went right to her head and her heart and other parts of her body. All those other parts that wanted his skin, his lips on her.
“The way you feel in my arms, Christ, Ruby, you have no idea.”
I do! I so do. I feel it too.
Now he’d kiss her. Yes, please! Lachlan lifted her onto her counter and, keeping his hands braced on her hips, held himself at the tiniest bit of distance. She had been waiting for forever for this. She’d beg. I wonder what other talents he keeps close to his belt? She reached to pull him closer.
“Ruby.” He’d nearly lost his voice, raw, edgy need feeding out of him with one word. My name. Jesus, he was going to undo her.
“Promise?” he asked. No, he was going to break her heart open with one request. If she was this turned on and whimpering with the touch of his lips soft on her neck, whispering gorgeous words to her, his kiss would probably brand her. Stake your claim, Lachlan. I’m here waiting for you.
She nodded. “I won’t forget. I promise, Lachlan.”
He gave it to her then, not the kiss she was desperate for, but the smile, his true smile. It changed his face from broody stone to brilliant, handsome man one hundred percent zeroed in on her. His eyes caught the fire and a shade lifted from those dark mysteries, like he’d been searching for light and he’d discovered it in her, finally. Holy cow!
And he strode from her apartment with one final announcement. “Goodnight then.”
What? Wait! What the heck is happening? “Goodnight?” She slid down from the counter and tried to anchor her feet on the floor because her legs were wobbly noodles and her heart was trying to beat out of her chest. Lust raced through her blood and she gripped the countertop for support.
He paused in the doorway, his hands on the frame, facing away from her, gathering himself.
No! Don’t gather your wits—come here. Throw your wits out of the window with mine.
And when he faced her, he blew her world into a million pieces of stardust. “I’m going to kiss you all night, kiss you into the morning, make you remember every single caress I place on your skin because I’ve imagined kissing you since the day you filled out the lease and teased me about lacking any sort of smile. When I nearly fell over at your beauty, the shimmer in your gorgeous eyes, that glow you spread out to everyone in your path. You have no idea.” Lachlan shook his head, lost in his thoughts. Or a memory? “I’ve wanted to kiss you since…since you altered my world.”
“Lachlan,” she whispered and took a shaky step toward him. Her body pulled her to his. They were connected now and the path to him was the only one for her. It was the feeling she’d had when she first met him too, and it had only grown stronger over the months. His words validated her romantic heart that existed in a world with so many people who didn’t believe, who walked their gray path and were fine with mediocrity.
He held up his hand to stop her. “Now that I know we’re here in the same space.” He made a circle in the air with his hands. “Now that I get to taste you, there’s no way I’m going to rush it. I’m going to savor every damn second.”
The man knew how to seduce, wielding anticipation like a gift, not a weapon. But she enjoyed rushing too. She loved rushing. Rush me into bed with your kisses now, you wonderful man, you!
“See you tomorrow,” he said. Then the handsome, frustrating-as-hell man smiled and strode out, closing the door behind him.
Lost in the laser hit of that smile for a minute, Ruby swayed on her feet as if she were truly drunk. Then his words filtered through her loopy state, wove themselves into her heart and set her on fire. “Oh, my beautiful goodness!”
Well, she hadn’t gotten a kiss. Any other man, any other spectacular moment and she might be pouting. Instead, her world had been spun in gold. She gently pressed her fingertips to her heart to feel the flip-flops it was doing. Drop-dead gorgeous, kind, sexy Lachlan MacGregory had zapped lightning through her with merely the promise of a kiss. Yet so much more than a kiss—he had noticed her. He did want her. Ruby held tight to the special moment, closed her eyes and cherished the luminous glow bursting in her dreams, in her heart at the promise tomorrow would bring.