An all-new standalone romance in Jessica Peterson’s Charleston Heat series is out now—with an enemies-to-lovers, accidental pregnancy scenario—and I have an excerpt for you.
Julia turns, taking a quick, angry step past me. But in her hurry, her boot catches on a loose floorboard. She pitches forward with a gasp.
I tear my hands out of my pockets and lunge to the right, determined to block her fall with the bulk of my body.
“You okay?” I say. I don’t recognize my voice.
Her hand unfurls against my chest. Palm flat against my suit jacket. The movement is small but trusting.
My heart clenches. Swelling with a protective urge I haven’t felt in ages. Julia is not helpless. Girl’s got a spine of steel. But here in my arms, she’s vulnerable. Open.
“Yeah,” she breathes. “Yeah, I’m fine.”
“You sure? How about your ankle? Can you move it?”
Her hair falls across her face as she looks down. Lifts her leg and rolls her ankle, making the muscles in her calf ripple against her smooth skin.
Lord. Have. Mercy.
I let out a silent sigh of relief. “Good. Julia, please be careful.”
She looks up at me. Eyes curious as they move between mine. I’ve noticed she likes it when I say her name. The blue in her eyes—it brightens.
Her hand is still on my chest.
“You know, that’s only the second time I’ve heard you say ‘please.’”
I clear my throat. Swimming in ferocious need, heat gathering between my legs.
I’ll make you say please.
I’ll make you beg.
“You said it yourself,” I manage. “I’m rude. And rude people don’t say ‘please.’”
“But you just did.”
“Be honest. Did you come all the way out here just to call me out on my bullshit?”
She grins, digging her teeth into her bottom lip.
I should not flirt with this woman. She’s my employee, for God’s sake. But I can’t seem to help myself.
Not when she’s touching me like this. Not when I’ve made her smile. A smile she’s turning on me. Warmth like the sun spreading through my skin.
Considering I’ve lived under a cloud the past three years, it feels really fucking nice.
“Surely you’ve picked up on two things about me,” she says. “One, I am making the budget work. And two, I very much enjoy calling you out. Sometimes I think you do it on purpose—you throw me these lay-ups, just to see if I’ll rise to the occasion.”
It’s like we’re playing truth or dare, and we keep exchanging truths.
Wrong that I want a dare?
“I’ve never met anyone as quick or full of conviction as you are, I’ll give you that,” I say.
“I’m anti-bullshit,” she replies. “Can’t help it.”
“I like that about you,” I say without thinking. “There are way too many superficial people in the world. In myworld, at least.”
I grunt. Search her eyes. “Me included.”
“Actually.” She arcs a finger lightly over my lapel. “I don’t think you’re very bullshit-y at all. You just don’t share your story. The real story. You hide it, don’t you? Why?”
My heart blares inside my ribcage. My lust burns hotter, even as my stomach contracts.
How did Julia pick up on that?
And how do I keep her from digging any deeper?
By sheer force of will, I step back, unwrapping my arms from around her body.
I’m on fucking fire.
And I’m going to be in trouble if I don’t get out of here.
“Keep an eye on that ankle.” I spear a hand through my hair and look away. “I—meeting—be in touch—”
I stalk out of there like the place is in flames.
I start my truck. The engine roars to life, air conditioning blasting through the vents. I settle my hand on the top of the steering wheel. Hold it in a death grip as I take a steadying breath.
That’s marginally better. Good enough to get me through the rest of the day at least.
I put the truck in reverse at the same moment the back driver’s side door opens.
My stomach falls a hundred stories when I glance at the rearview mirror and see Julia slide into the backseat.
She closes the door behind her.
Our eyes meet in the mirror. Hers glimmer.
Oh, fuck. That’s arousal in her gaze.
Then again, I’m a lunatic when it comes to this woman, so my radar is questionable at best.
“What are you doing?” I ask. Grinding my foot into the brake pedal.
Her eyes bore into mine. A beat passes.
“Exactly what you think I am,” she replies.
My stomach drops another hundred stories as understanding dawns. Is this happening? Is Julia really propositioning me?
“I don’t fuck employees.”
“I don’t fuck bosses. Or assholes.” She takes a breath. “Tell me to get out, and I’ll leave. It’s just—Greyson, the tension between us…it’s eating me alive.”
I don’t want her to leave.
I should. I really, really should ask her to go.
But I don’t. I can’t.
I mean, I can fuck Julia and still keep a safe distance, right? Anything more and I’d be playing with fire. But casual sex? It’s never been a problem before.
Above all else, I don’t want to hurt her. Which will inevitably happen if the sex turns serious.
But we’re both adults. She just said I’m not her type. And this is not my first rodeo. Hell, maybe fucking her will make this dragon boner finally go away. Why not give it a try? Worst case scenario, one of us catches feelings and we end it. No big deal. This project will wrap up in less than six months anyway.
“Tell me to leave, Greyson,” she repeats, more forcefully this time.
A voice inside my head tells me I’m being an idiot. It tells me Julia is different, the way I feel about her is different, and that I am going to burn us both to the ground.
But I shove the truck into park anyway.
Julia’s breath catches. My dick goes full salute.
“You’ll stay,” I reply, eyes locked on hers.
I turn off the ignition. Unbuckle my seatbelt. Reach across the console to open the glovebox. Inside, there’s a pack of Marlboro lights, a half bottle of local rye whiskey, and a handful of condoms.
Ford calls it my sinner’s chest.
I call it being prepared for whatever life throws my way. Good days, bad days. Celebrations.
Opportunities to fuck the woman I want so bad I can’t see straight.
I grab a condom. Climb out of the car and open the back door.
Julia blinks against the late afternoon sunshine that slants across her face. I step forward so that my shadow keeps the sun out of her eyes. She blinks again, head tilting back as she looks up at me.
Her perfume—not flowery, not musky, just pure delicious poison—surrounds me. My cock throbs.
“Just sex,” she says. “Just once.”
“Just sex,” I say.
But I can’t guarantee just once.