Excerpt of the new romance thriller, One True Thing...The lie that becomes the only true thing in the midst of chaos...
Followed by the two bodyguards, they walked through the lobby of the hotel. She held her hand up to the entourage when they would have followed them onto the elevator and said, “If you don’t mind, we need to catch up on a few things in private.”
“But Vanessa—“ Simon started, obviously upset by this turn of events.
The doors closed, leaving them alone. It was as if a great weight lifted from her shoulders in one instant. Smiling, she leaned her back against the wall of the elevator and faced him.
“Sorry about the kiss out there.” Not really, but it was only polite to apologize for thrusting him into the limelight.
“Is my face going to be plastered on the front page of every tabloid tomorrow?”
“It already is, most likely.”
“That should keep my mother quiet for awhile. She accuses me of not having a social life.”
“You clean up well, Nic.”
“So do you.”
“I should tell you that—“
"I've been informed that you’re trouble with a capital T.” He shoved his hands into the pockets of his slacks and mirrored her position against the opposite wall.
“Only when provoked,” she said.
“I’ll try to behave myself then.”
“Sounds like a dull evening.”
“So what brings an American princess to Spain?”
“Call me that again and you’ll see what kind of trouble I can cause.”
“The press loves you.”
“Ah. The press. Part of the package, I’m afraid. At least these days.”
“Because of your art?”
“I wish. In the art world, I'm not even close to being a star, not that I really care about that.” She shrugged and chewed her lower lip. “So, Nic, what game is it that we’re playing? Did your girlfriend cancel at the last minute? Is that why you need me to fill in?” Foolish woman, if that’s the case.
“I didn’t have a date until I saw you.”
“An impulsive man. I like it.”
They stared at each other for a heartbeat, the heat of their attraction simmering between them in the small space.
Despite her reckless image and Cleo's accusing words, the so-called accident had rattled her and the energy it had taken to suppress it all afternoon during her showing had taken a toll. Nic — for reasons she couldn't explain, especially given that she didn't know him at all — felt like a safe place to fall.
She sighed and absently rubbed the back of her neck.
“You don’t have to go through with this charade if you don’t want to. I honestly didn’t know who you were when I—"
“My name doesn’t make a difference, does it?”
“I’d be lying if I said no…” his voice trailed off with uncertainty.
“Then lie to me.” She twisted her fingers into the fabric of her dress and willed him to not let the weight of her lineage crush the spark of something new.
He broke eye contact and looked down to where her fingers fidgeted. "I uncovered more of the mural. I couldn't get you out of my mind and wanted it to be more exposed when — if — you came back." He raked his gaze over her torso, across her breasts, her long neck, and finally rested on her eyes. "It's all I could think about — you returning."
She caught her lower lip between her teeth at his admission and relaxed even more against the wall.
“So you don’t mind pretending to be my girlfriend for the evening? Not just a date, but someone who…” His face distorted with confusion. He looked away from her gaze and stared at the numbers blinking their ascent. “I don’t remember ever feeling like this much of an ass. Honestly, you don't need to do this. I was being selfish—”
“So who am I deflecting from you tonight, Lover Boy?” She grinned with empathy. "Anyone specific I should keep an eye out for or are all the women there salivating after you?"
He looked at her with surprise and laughed. “Remember this morning when I told you about my parents' matchmaking plans? Who knows what they have in store for me, I sure as hell have no idea. I'm just showing up as ordered.”
“So I’m supposed to battle off the hoards of women who want to seduce you? How involved do you want us to be? Secret lovers?”
“Lovers. Definitely. ” He stared at her mouth, devoid of lipstick, as her smile widened.
“How long have we been involved in this secret love fest?”
“Six months? Long enough that people won't try to get in between us, know what I mean? My parents are overly concerned with my love life, seem to think that choosing to be alone equals some kind of mental defect.”
"I knew there had to be a reason."
"A man like you needing a human shield." She liked the way his gaze roamed over her as if appraising his next conquest. That predatory vibe she'd gotten on the stairs amplified in the small confines of the elevator and buzzed over her skin. "Don't you like women?"
He arched an eyebrow, gaze snapping up to hers. "I don't want to be alone, I want to be left alone. There's a difference."
She understood that all too well.
“Six months it is then. That’s good. Not too new or too old, but I had an ex I tossed —nudged —overboard recently. You'll be cast as the other man, the one I cheated on Eric with and left him for, you good with that?” Those eyes of his…just watching him look at her melted her insides like a flame licking wax.
"I am, makes me sound more interesting than I've ever been." He smiled as if entertained by the idea.
“And you want us to pretend that we’ve been together — intimate — for the past six months?” Pushing off from the wall, she closed the gap between them with two strides.
“Crazy idea. I should have just asked you out this morning, made a legitimate date.”
“Is that what you wanted to do? Take some strange woman who’d picked you up on a motorcycle to a family party?”
“Yes, among other things.” His eyelids drooped with desire.
She straightened the tie she’d grabbed on the outside stairs. “I had the same ideas regarding those other things.”
He stopped her hand when she would have pulled it from his chest. “I’ve never done anything like this before. This isn’t like me.”
“The kiss on the stairs will be a hot commodity, I’m afraid. That should solidify our masquerade,” she whispered, wondering why the simple touch of his fingers could burn a hole in her stomach.
“Then I’ll have some peace.”
“I don’t think so.” She shook her head, envisioning reporters tracking Nic down. “You may have picked the wrong girl for this game, especially for someone who wants to be left alone.”
“I can be evasive when I need to be,” he said, his gaze dropping to her lips.
“This is just the illusion, Nic. Don't start believing the hype. That woman on the bike you met this morning, the one you wanted to ask out on a legit date? That was the real me.” Maybe she said it with too much conviction, too much heat. Maybe she sounded desperate by saying it, but for reasons she couldn't explain, she wanted him to know that.
He shrugged. "You're an heiress with a reputation and I'm a resort developer. Who cares? Does that really change anything?"
"I hope not," she whispered. She pressed her palm against the center of his chest.
Damn, he looked good in both jeans and a tuxedo. She wondered what he'd look like naked, hoped she'd find out soon. Something intangible compelled her toward him that had nothing to do with his appearance — an understated power reverberated from him. And she wouldn't be a true Warren if she weren't attracted to power on some level.
"Are you as much trouble as they say?”
“I’m an angel,” she said, tongue-in-cheek with her head tilted to the side.
“Six months. That’s how long we’ve been lovers, don't forget because we're sure to be asked.”
“Too bad I don't remember the details of this covert love affair." She slid her hand from the center of his chest to curve over his shoulders.
“We met in London. It’s been your idea to keep the relationship secret because of your notoriety...and with me being the other man and all."
“Make it France, I've been living there for the past two years."
"France it is then, it's closer, too, more believable." His hands moved across her back, pressing her close.
"I hate coffee. Never drink it. All I want in the morning is a glass of orange juice and toast. Or pancakes if that’s possible.”
“Putting in your breakfast order?”
“Lovers know details. Sculpting is my passion, not my hobby, like some people say. I can barely stand the taste of wine, but love a good beer. I love the ocean and loud baseball games. Oh. And chili-cheese fries.”
“What about chili-cheese fries?”
“I’m praying that room service makes them.”
“I’ll make them myself if I have to.”
“How?” She stared at his mouth, breathed in the scent of him and trailed a fingertip along his jawline.
“I own this hotel, remember?”
“Tell me more. We're almost to the top, the doors will open soon—”
“I haven’t been back to Chicago in eleven years. I prefer a good beer or a whiskey to wine any day. And I don’t date. Well, until you swept me off my feet, that is."
“You couldn’t resist me?” There were times in life when she’d let opportunity fly past her, clung to the rules of propriety that had been drummed into her head since birth, but not often. Rarely, in fact. Thank God.
In one quick move, he crushed her against him and devoured her lips with his. Like a wild animal released after years in captivity, his passion overwhelmed her, consumed her. He lifted her tight against him, one hand at the back of her head, the other at her hip.
Her feet left the ground. She wrapped her arms around his neck. Desire engulfed her like an inferno.
Tongues clashed in an age-old dance. Deep, low moans rattled from their chests. Her fingers wrapped themselves in the ends of his hair. She wanted more, craved his heat, needed his body claiming hers, hungered for the taste of his skin under her mouth.
The elevator doors opened with a ding.
Chests heaving against one another, they stared into each other's eyes, lips still clinging together. Breath tangled with breath.
“Going down?” Pam asked from the opening of the elevator.
“Not quite yet,” Vanessa replied, a slow smile curving her lips as she smoothed the velvet over her hips. “Maybe later.”
She looked at Nic and winked, hiding the nerves that jumped beneath her skin. When in doubt, fake an attitude. Works every time.
From the back cover....
Power...it's a heady drug.
Vanessa Warren is America's favorite rebel. Daughter and granddaughter of US Presidents and sister to a future one, her family connections and notoriety are seen as leverage for manipulating the White House—if she's captured.
One little lie leads to a whole lot of trouble.
Reclusive international resort developer, Dominic Varga, needs a date to ward off his matchmaking parents. When he persuades the notorious Vanessa Warren to play his girlfriend for the night, he has no idea he's stepped into the crosshairs of kidnappers who will do anything—destroy everything—to get to her.
One true thing...
Trapped in a rapidly escalating international terror plot, Dominic and Vanessa's lie becomes the only real thing in the midst of betrayals, conspiracies, and murder. As their world falls apart, they suddenly only have each other to rely on against ruthless people who will stop at nothing to achieve their goal. Who can they trust? Who is behind the plot—her own family, a political rival of her family's, or a terrorist organization? How far will the kidnappers go—what will they be willing to sacrifice—to control the power of the White House? Is there anywhere in the world where they can find safety?