First Look: Love After War, coming November, 2013
Love After War is coming in November. The story of Adrian Bryant and Dana Singleton is one of my favorite love stories that I've ever written.
When club owner Adrian Bryant discovers his biological father is hotel magnate Elliot Crawford, his life unravels. Shunned by Crawford while he and his mother struggled, Adrian hatches a high-profile plan to destroy the Crawford name—and the reputations of his two half-brothers. But to shield the woman he loves from the hell he intends to unleash, Adrian has to let her go.
Photographer Dana Singleton is heartbroken and confused by Adrian’s behavior. But just when she’s given up on their relationship, she begins to discover the truth—and a dark side of Adrian she never knew existed. As the stakes get higher, she will have to ask herself if she can love a man who is capable of such vengeance—or if he can learn to forgive...
Now allow me to pull back the cover and give you a sneak peek inside:
The last thing Dana Singleton ever wanted was to find herself alone with the man who’d broken her heart two years ago. She’d put three thousand miles between them twenty-four months ago only to find that the moment she returned to Los Angeles, she was trapped with him in the middle of a brownout.
God, she thought, why do you hate me?
“This is insane,” Adrian said, then looked over at Dana. And a slow smile spread across his face when he recognized her. “Long time no see.” When he reached out to embrace her, Dana pushed back.
“Don’t you dare touch me,” she said. “How dare you even look at me or expect me to be thrilled to see you?”
“Don’t act like that,” he said, offering her a sizzling smile. In the near darkness of the coffee shop, his smile damn near lit up the place.
“Act like what? Like I can’t stand to be in the same room with you? Trust and believe, it is not an act,” she snapped. Oh, she hated him and the way he still made her heart flutter with a powerful yearning to fall into those strong arms and press her mouth against his while he slowly kissed her until her body melted against his. Looking away from him, she forced herself to remember being dumped by text message. It’s for the best. I’m moving on and you should do the same, the message had read. She closed her eyes and rubbed her temples. That night replayed in her mind like a bad movie in a broken DVD player. She’d felt stupid, confused, and disappointed. But she had taken the hint and left. If only she’d told Imani and Universal Studios no. Then she’d still be in New York and not running into Adrian on his home turf, Los Angeles.
She expelled a frustrated sigh because when she opened her eyes, he was still there. Still staring at her with that spectacular smile on his face.
“Dana, I know I owe you a huge apology and an explanation as to why—”
“You don’t owe me a damned thing, and I definitely don’t want to hear any apology you took two years to come up with.”
Adrian stared at her, soaking up Dana’s unique beauty. The long dreadlocks were new and very sexy. She had caramel-colored skin that made him salivate as he thought about all the places he used to lick and how sweet she tasted between her thighs. Letting her go had been the worst thing he’d ever had to do. But it was necessary. He only wished he could come clean with her now. But his mission wasn’t complete and the last thing he wanted was to get her caught up in his plan.
Dana snapped her fingers in Adrian’s face. “Thinking of a pretty lie to tell me?”
“Can we talk about it over a cup of coffee?” he asked, smiling at her and making Dana snarl in response.
“You know what, Adrian? I’ve grown up since the last time I saw you. Decided that I deserve someone who knows how to treat me and that isn’t you. So, hell no. I don’t want to talk to you over coffee. I don’t want to talk to you period.”
“I was trying to protect you, Dana,” he said, his voice low, a sexy growl that made her body twitch. The same voice that he used to whisper sweet promises in her ear. Turning her back to him, Dana tried to pretend she wasn’t affected. As long as he doesn’t touch me, I’ll be fine, she thought. Then she felt his hand on her shoulder. “I’m sorry,” he said. “Sorry for what I did and the way things looked. But it was for the best.”
“It was. And when the power comes back on, we can pretend you’re still gone.”
Adrian spun her around, drinking in her delicate features. Though her eyes flashed anger and resentment, she was still the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. The love of his life. The only thing not touched by his need for revenge. What could he say to her to explain what his life had become?
“What?” she snapped, locking eyes with him.
He knew the right thing to do when it came to Dana was to leave her alone, to walk away and continue his quest. But at that moment, in the silence of the darkened coffee shop, all he wanted was a sweet taste of his past. A kiss from Dana. He leaned in, pressing his lips against hers. He felt her heat, passion, and want. When her lips parted and his tongue slipped inside, her sweetness nearly brought him to his knees. Closer. He had to be closer to her, and he wrapped her in his arms as if he were a blanket. She didn’t resist him, didn’t push him away. Instead, she kissed him back as if no time had passed since their lips last touched. She made him feel as if her mouth had been waiting for his. That couldn’t be the case . . . could it?
Dana’s brain clicked and she realized she wasn’t dreaming about kissing Adrian; she was kissing him. Relishing in the touch of his tongue against her lips and savoring the hint of mint that his mouth always held. She wasn’t imagining that his fingers were gliding up and down her spine; it was actually happening. The man she loved. The man who’d broken her heart with a text message. Kiss over. She pulled back, snatched away from him, and angrily eyed him. “What in the hell is wrong with you?” Dana demanded.
“Me? I didn’t kiss myself and from what I felt, you’re happy to see me.”
“You cocky son of a—”
“I know I am. Glad you agree,” he quipped.
“This may be a game to you—one kiss and I’m supposed to bend to your will and let you back between my thighs because you think you belong there? Go to hell, Adrian.”
Between her thighs . . . was that supposed to push him away? That was his place and he would reclaim it, just as soon as he put his father where he belonged. “Dana, Dana, Dana, you wanted that kiss, needed it just as much as I did, if for nothing more than closure.”
“How about you close your mouth?” Dana snapped. Before she could say another word, the power popped on and Dana bolted out of Starbucks and away from Adrian. But the memory of that kiss haunted her and reminded her of hot LA nights on the beach when they were in love. When things between them had been easy and sunny, bright and filled with the promise of a future filled with love. A future that Dana thought would mean her as a fashion photographer and the wife of Adrian Bryant. The latter dream ended with a text message. Still, she wanted to know why and what changed his mind. She knew his mother’s death changed him, but the coldness she’d seen on his face the day of the funeral and later at his penthouse kept her awake at night. Was someone to blame for Mrs. Bryant’s death?
Did Adrian believe he’d done something to cause his mother’s death? She’d wrestled with these questions for two years, and the moment she’d resolved to forget about him, there he was. Sexier and more mysterious than ever. But not this time. She was not, in no way, shape, or form, going to allow him to suck her into his atmosphere again. Not when she was about to embark on her biggest and most exciting assignment of her career—shooting publicity shots for one of the biggest film studios in America. Sure part of the reason why she’d gotten the gig had been because of her best friend and current Hollywood it girl, Imani Thomas, but the fact of the matter was, Dana’s career was on the uptick and Adrian Bryant could go to hell, twice. She had her closure, even if the taste of his kiss burned in her mouth.