Eli Sabatino, determined to make a name for himself amid Seaside, New Jersey’s nightlife, has laid out the perfect plan for success. But that plan didn’t include Layla, the hopeful bartender who walked in for an interview. He knows, as an employee, this blonde bombshell is off-limits but he can’t fight the undeniable force of attraction that pulls him toward her.
Layla Del Duca has the weight of the world on her shoulders. With a full course load, a boyfriend, a sister to take care of, and an alcoholic mother, she needs to regain control of her life. Her job at Fierce is priority number one. But a complication she didn’t expect looms behind the eyes of Eli, her handsome new boss.
Emotions collide full force and they can no longer turn a blind eye to what their hearts are telling them.
But, can their passion survive when Eli can no longer promise the one thing Layla asks of him? Will everything change? Will he stay?
The barista hands me my coffee. I stuff the receipt in my pocket walking out but stopping short when I get a better look at the dad and his daughter.
Eli and his daughter.
Eli. Has. A. Kid.
I duck back into the coffee shop trying to figure out a way to get around him without being seen. I take a seat at an empty table that gives me a little view of Eli. My heart is beating so fast and I’m shaking. Holy shit, I can’t believe he has a kid. How did he not tell me this? Did I miss the pictures of her in his office? How come she’s never come in for a visit before opening?
All of these questions are swirling around in my head when I see a tall, beautiful brunette walk out of Victoria’s Secret and right over to where Eli is with his daughter. I stop breathing and my vision blurs as she places a hand on Eli’s shoulder and leans in to kiss the little girl’s cheek.
A chair slides across the tile floor startling me. I grab my coffee, stand up and look around trying to figure out which way is the fastest to get outside, to get away from this train wreck. I realize there are no exits nearby, only a bathroom so that’s where I head.
I take a sip of my coffee and toss the rest in the trash…not even drinking that will help ward off the headache now.
Stepping out of the coffee shop I keep my head down until I turn the corner where I’m safe, only I’m not.
Oomph. Firm hands grasping my upper arms keep me steady. My cheek rests against a hard toned chest. The aroma of a crisp sea breeze with a hint of woodsy essence invades my senses and makes my world tilt.
My heart rate picks up a beat and I try to quickly recover by taking a few steps back. “I’m sorry.” I say before looking up.
The guy chuckles and it’s like a bucket of cold water that washes over me. I know that sound and it’s the last person I wanted to run into right now. It’s the person I was running from.
“What are you doing?” He asks.
I roll my eyes while adjusting the strap on my purse.
“Shopping, what else do you do at a mall, Eli?”
I huff annoyed that he would think I can’t shop by myself.
“Where’s Brian?” When his name rolls off his tongue I cringe.
“Where’s your girlfriend?” Yeah, jerk, I saw her and your daughter.
Eli smirks and I want to punch him in the face. “I don’t have one.”
“Then who’s that?” I say nodding towards the pretty girl with her daughter who looks to be about Fallon’s age.
I glare, getting more and more pissed off that he’s not claiming them. “Nope.”
“Then why does it matter who that is?”
He smiles a cocky smile. “I’ll tell you on one condition.”
He takes a small step towards me and leans down to whisper in my ear. “Go out to dinner with me again tonight.”
I push on his hard stomach. “No.”
Eli laughs. “Why not? It’s just friends having dinner.”
“Because.” I can’t think of a reason to say no but I know that I should.
Eli takes a step closer and I take a step back. “There has to be a reason, Layla.” He takes another step towards me and my back hits the wall. He’s got me cornered and his girlfriend and daughter are right there. This is so fucked up. “Are you afraid of what might happen?”
I swallow hard. “No.”
He brings his mouth right to my ear and whispers, “Are you afraid of me or what will happen when you’re with me?”
A shiver racks my body as his warm breath hits my ear. He’s so cocky but in a sexy sort of way.
Eli kisses the lobe of my ear. “Which is it, Layla?”
I can’t speak. I can barely hold myself up against the wall. He bites down on my ear and I whimper. Breathing is optional at this point.
Why is he doing this? He just kissed my fucking ear, in the mall, in broad daylight, and I’m like a deer caught in headlights right now.
“I’ll pick you up at seven. Wear something nice.”
And then he’s gone leaving me speechless and utterly breathless.
What the hell just happened?
USA TODAY bestselling author Megan Smith is a New Jersey native managing purchasing for an award-winning business IT and software development firm – and by night creating the memorable characters her fans have grown to adore. Smith’s The Love Series introduces readers to MacKenzie Cahill – a hopeful young woman who experiences adversity, challenges and the bittersweet triumph of true, authentic love.
Smith is a wife and mother, who makes time for her family, professional life and the creation of the Cahill’s world. Fans of The Love Series – Trying Not To Love You, Easy To Love You, Hard To Love You – are captivated by relationships, special bonds and family ties pervasive in Smith’s emotional, energized and engaging work. Smith is also the author of the 2014 releases, Let Me Love You – continuations of The Love Series, Finding Us (Finding Series) and a few top secret projects.
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