Anything can be fixed with a little Duct Tape and sass…
At least that’s what celebrity fixer, Delilah Donovan, used to think. She prides herself on being able to handle anything. But when she’s asked to fix the new CEO of Synth Games, she never dreams she’ll come face to face with the only man to ever break her heart.
The past can’t always be fixed…
When a friend calls in a long ago favor, reformed hacker, Nate Williams, worries that his shady past will come back to haunt him. As acting CEO of Synth Games, he needs to make the world believe he’s CEO material. Too bad the one person who can help him is the one woman he had to leave behind.
Will Nate bury his demons for good or will his past dictate his future? Can Delilah rise to this challenge or will Nate shatter her heart…again.
You can tell by looking at the book cover that this novel features an interracial romance. But you know what’s so good about it? The skin colors of the lovers is never directly stated. BECAUSE IT DOESN’T MATTER.
Delilah is a woman I want to have as my friend. She’s sweet, hard working, intelligent, snarky, and unbelievably loyal. She’s even loyal to Nate, who abandoned her all those years ago, breaking her sixteen-year-old heart. Sure, he had his reasons, but what he did was pretty awful. If nothing else, he owed an explanation to Delilah’s parents, who rescued Nate from near death, helped him heal, and gave him a warm, loving home.
The fact that he bolted right after Delilah professed her love? That lowers him even more.
Nana Malone doesn’t want you to dislike him too much, though, because otherwise, we don’t buy in to the romance. When Nate presses Delilah up against the wall for their first kiss, you will feel it in your toes. So it’s important that we like Nate in that moment. We don’t want to feel that he’s taking advantage of Delilah.
There is some intrigue in this book involving Nate’s biological brother and the company for which Nate is stepping in as temporary CEO, but the intrigue takes a backseat to the romance.
Delilah and Nate make you believe in soul mates, and they even made my cold hard heart believe that nothing can keep soul mates apart. Their chemistry ignites on each page, and there is some hot headboard rockin’.
The weaknesses are all in the subplots. There is just too much predictability in those stories to make them compelling. Sure, we know that Nate and Delilah will wind up together, but they are interesting, engaging characters and we want to see them together. The brother thing? The gaming company thing? Meh.
As far as hot summer reads go, it is enjoyable nonetheless. And when you finish this book, if you don’t want the Donovans to adopt you, I thank you because that means my chances for them adopting me just got better.
Excerpts (not just one, but FIVE!!!)
“I’m a compulsive gambler. I’ll be heading to an upstate rehab facility tomorrow. My interim CEO has a month to convince the board that he has the chops, or I’ll lose my company to one of the vultures on the board.”
What? Delilah clamped her jaw tight to keep it from hanging open. He was worth half a billion dollars. She slid a gaze to Jake, but he nodded at her, encouragingly. When she finally was in control again, she asked. “My first question is, how long will you be in rehab?”
Chase met her gaze directly. “Sixty days inpatient, then a thirty day outpatient.”
“What prompted the need to check yourself in?”
He hesitated, but she prompted. “If we’re to protect your interests, I need to know what I’ll have to deal with. What prompted the rehab?”
He sighed, and for the first time, she realized how weary he looked, as if he’d been up all night. “Last night, some associates of a bookie thought it would be nice to tune me up.” His glance shifted to the man at the window.
“I’d been a week late with a payment of half a million dollars.”
Delilah blinked. Why would he owe anyone that kind of money? She cleared her throat. “And this bookie, who is he? Is this an establishment that will come out and attempt to tarnish your reputation?”
A frown marred his handsome face. “A back room game in the city. Invite only. Hole in the wall place. He won’t be going public with anything. It’s not in his interest to do so.”
Jake piped in. “They’ve been paid in full and will not come after you in the future?”
Chase shook his head. “No. I’m covered. But I understand your job will be difficult. Synth is already drawing a lot of media coverage because of the release of the new game.”
Delilah sat forward. “It’s timed with the movie release, right?”
Chase nodded. “Yes. Normally this wouldn’t be such a big deal, but the game and movie combined are projected to do a hundred million in the first week of release.”
Jake nodded enthusiastically. “We’re on it, Chase. We know how important this is.”
Delilah quickly made a note for Willow before looking back up. “We’ll do what we can to keep your recent run-in out of the news. We’ll populate some misdirecting stories if anything should arise. In the meantime, we’ll also start to draft the releases about your temporary step down. They’ll go to the majors. We should also plan for your return and the interviews following. We’ll want the important morning shows and outlets, like Anderson Cooper and Piers Morgan. I have a contact at Oprah’s Network too. We’ll see if we can get you on one of her shows.”
Quickly and efficiently she went through the plan for keeping his recent run-in with meaty fists out of the media. She also ran through the plan of communication to the public and shareholders. Of course, every part of the plan boiled down to the final most important piece. “And what do you plan to do about your company while you’re away?” She glanced briefly to Lachlan.
Chase leaned forward. “We’ve called an emergency board meeting for tonight. I can suggest a replacement, and the board will choose. With the voting members present, it should be no problem making sure it goes my way. The crux is, in another thirty days, the board can keep or replace.” He glanced around. “It is in my best interest if the CEO I pick stays.”
Delilah studied the man seated next to Chase. Lachlan Murphy was great CEO material. Honestly, this job would be a walk in the park with him. There wouldn’t be much to do. “I assume you’ll be stepping in as Mr. Channing’s CEO, Mr. Murphy?”
Lachlan’s eyes widened. “Me? Uh, no. And call me Lach. There would be a conflict of interest with my other business interests. I will only be acting in an advisory capacity, that’s all.”
Jake frowned. “I don’t understand. Who will be your replacement?”
Chase gave them a sheepish smile. “I’d hoped he’d be here by now. He was taking care of a quality assurance problem with one of our games. He’ll be here shortly.”
Delilah chewed her bottom lip. What were the chances that whoever Chase had picked would be as easy to mold and work with as Lachlan Murphy? She slid a glance at Jake. His lips were pressed into a thin line.
She licked her lips. “Okay, then. What will we need to know? Where will we need to focus my attention? What’s his background, what are his strengths?”
Chase and Lach exchanged a quick glance. Lachlan spoke first. “He’s loyal.”
Chase continued. “He actually designed a good portion of our games, so he’s familiar with the technology.”
Delilah read between the lines. Games programmer usually meant awkward nerd type. She’d have to roll up her sleeves on this one. “What else?”
“He has an MBA, he’s smart, and he’ll keep my company afloat.”
Delilah studied Chase carefully, unsure how to get the honest truth out of both men. They were giving her the guy’s resume not the overall feel of him. She sat back and asked, “What are we missing here? What is it you don’t want to tell us? We need to know what deep dark skeletons we’re going to have to incinerate so the public never finds them. Or at least doesn’t find them until you’re back in your rightful seat and your profit margins are up.”
Chase squirmed in his seat. Lachlan wouldn’t meet her gaze and suddenly seemed to find his phone very interesting. Abruptly, Chase sat straighter. “Looks like he’s here. You can ask him yourself.”
Through the opaque glass of the conference room, a tall figure loomed at the door. Broad shoulders. There was an air of confidence about him. She could work with that, but even as she stood, the fine hairs on her arms stood at attention.
When the door swung open, Delilah catalogued him in an instant. She caught sight of his Nike Air Force Ones first, then dark jeans. His hands were big. Like they were made for playing basketball, not coding video games. But they were unadorned with jewelry. His leather jacket was expensive, well made and well worn. He didn’t wear it for fashion, rather for necessity. Under it, he wore a black T-shirt that stretched over a well-defined chest.
Oh hell yes. She could certainly work with this.
Her long dormant libido woke up and stretched languorously. It wasn’t until she managed to drag her eyes from his defined pectorals that her brain stuttered. A shadow of blond hair dusted his chin and strong jaw. Longish blond hair curled at his nape. Lips shaped like a bow with a fuller lower lip. High cheekbones. A slightly crooked nose that had been broken at least once. Deep-set, aquamarine eyes framed by thick, sooty lashes.
A face she knew well. One that had haunted her for seven years.
All air whooshed from her lungs as if she’d been hit in the solar plexus.
Chase’s voice sounded like a distant echo. “Jake, Miss Donovan. Allow me to introduce you to Nathanial Williams. He’ll be stepping in as CEO while I’m gone.”
Oh. Hell. No. Her heart hammered, and her lungs refused to operate properly. This is not happening to me. Not him. Anyone but him.
Her gaze collided with the man she’d thought she once loved, and her stomach pitched. The last time she’d seen Nate was her sixteenth birthday. The night he’d betrayed her family and broken her heart.
“I’d have to trust you to help, and I don’t.”
He stalked over to her, crowding her personal space. “You think I don’t remember that last night I saw you? You think my decision to leave doesn’t haunt me most nights? I had to leave. You, and your folks—the last thing I wanted to do was hurt you. I shut the door on that part of my life when I left. Trust me when I say I never thought I’d be seeing any of you again. But here we are. And it doesn’t change the fact that I need your help.” He backed off again and leaned back against the wall.
Blood simmered under her skin, scorching her flesh from the inside. “And what happens after I help you? You vanish without a trace again? And you know what? Stop calling me Lila. You lost the right to call me that when you left.”
“I’m sorry, I can’t do that.” Softly he added, “I remember everything about you.”
His voice, low and husky, had heat pooling in her center and her body vibrating with longing. She hated that he could do that to her with simple words. “God, you know, you are such a bullshit artist.”
The air changed around them, and Delilah shivered. She knew what was coming before he even moved, but there was no bracing for it. He gently tugged her against him, giving her every chance to pull back, but no matter the commands her brain gave, her body refused to comply.
Nate slid his arms around her. His lips were gentle, but demanding. A spike of the electricity flared between them, scorching her lips when his tongue dipped in. With a low groan, he shifted their angle, kissing her deeper and ripping a moan from her as her whole body started to melt.
She didn’t have the defenses to fight off those long dormant feelings. Somewhere in the far recesses of her mind, alarm bells rang, starting as a low buzz, but quickly intensifying to a sharp clang.
He dragged his lips from hers and stared at her. His muttered curse echoed her own feelings.
The elevator dinged at the ground floor, and the doors slid open. She shook her head in an effort to kick-start her brain. “What the hell was that?”
Nate’s heated gaze met hers. “That was something I’ve been thinking of doing for seven years.”
Immobilized, she watched him walk out. Her lips tingled, and her body was too limp to move. After all this time, he still had the power to stun her.
She met his gaze directly then. “Why does it matter?”
That was his Lila. Never had let him off easy. “Because I can’t stop thinking about how you taste.”
Her breath came in shallow pants, and with every lick of her lips, he almost begged her for mercy.
“Nate, I can’t do this. Our history. And not to mention this is against the rules. I never should have let that kiss in the elevator happen. I could lose my job.”
Now that, he didn’t want. He knew what it meant to her. But he also couldn’t help wanting her. “I would never let that happen. No one would have to know. All I want is a taste.” He gently slid his hands to her waist, tugging her closer so her body fit against his. “To prove it was an illusion.”
Delilah swallowed hard. “Nate…”
“If you don’t want me to do this, say the word, and I’ll let you go.” And he would. No matter what it cost him.
But she didn’t move. Instead, her gaze drifted to his mouth in silent invitation.
Nate dipped his head to kiss her, at first lightly brushing their lips together. Her lips parted for him, and his tongue slid in to taste her. Spicy, with a hint of sweet.
For several torturous seconds, she didn’t respond, just stood tense in his arms. But then he sucked on her bottom lip, and she moaned, meeting his tongue with her own and lazily looping her hands around his neck. She threaded her fingers into his hair, and he groaned against her mouth. She was so soft. His thumbs traced over her hipbones, and she shivered. Angling his head and deepening their kiss, Nate kept up the teasing until she panted and breathed out a soft whimper.
Just as his hands slid up over her belly, there was a knock at the door. He tore his lips from hers and dragged in a ragged breath. “Just a second,” he called out.
Delilah stumbled backward and blinked up at him with a heavy-lidded gaze. “What was that?”
Me being a masochist. “That was something I intend to do again.”
Her breathing eventually slowed, and she took another deliberate step back. “Don’t you need me as a willing participant?”
He ran a thumb over her bottom lip and watched in fascination as her pupils dilated. “Are you willing?”
And though he held onto a sliver of hope, her answer was a surprise.
“I don’t know.”
His brows drew down. “Have you told them about me?”
She sat up with a start, and the bed sheet slipped. His eyes immediately dipped to her breasts, and her nipples hardened. She ignored him and slid the sheet more securely under her arms. He would not distract her with sex again. “No! God no. I mean, what could I have said, honestly?”
He flattened his lips. “What are you going to say now?”
She stared at him. “Still nothing. Look, you made it clear that you didn’t exactly want the reunion thing, and I heard you, so I’m not saying a word, okay?” She slid out of bed. Now where the hell were her clothes? She scanned the floor. Was it undignified to crawl under the bed looking for her thong?
His next question surprised her. “And if I wanted you to say something?”
She turned to face him slowly. “You’re kidding, right?”
He slid out of the bed too, except he didn’t bother with a sheet. Her mouth watered. Fantastic. Even on a verge of an argument she wanted him. She needed to do some hard time on a psychiatrist’s couch. “And if I’m not kidding?”
“What—I’m supposed to go home and say, what? Hey, guys, I found Nate. Do you have any idea what that would do to Mom?”
A vast silence extended between them. “Somehow, I don’t think it has anything to do with your mother or how anyone else will react. You don’t trust me.”
A fist wrapped around her heart and squeezed. “How can you say that?”
“I can say that because I see it written all over you. You’re already trying to run.”
“I’m not running!” Liar. “I have shit to do.”
“Okay fine. You have shit to do. But I’m not just talking about today. Since I’ve seen you again, you’ve been running from me, from this. Which is bullshit because we obviously are pretty fucking explosive together.”
Desire spiked through her. Easy does it. “And what about you? You were the first one to point out that this thing is only temporary. I’m not the only one running. You made it clear you wanted nothing to do with your past. And now you’re changing your mind. What happens when you change it again and pull one of your disappearing acts? I’m not picking up the pieces again. You don’t get to do that to my family again, so no, I’m not exactly eager to tell them that I found you.”
He flinched as if she’d struck him. Immediately, she wanted to take the words back, but she knew she couldn’t. Besides, it was the truth. It was one thing to enjoy Nate. To indulge every fantasy that sixteen-year-old her ever had about him. But getting close and attached was not a good idea. He would hurt her again.
“So it all boils down to that?” His voice was soft.
“That’s all there is. Fundamentally, that’s who you are. You’ll stick around for a while, but then you’ll leave. I’m an adult now. I can handle it. And when you’re bored, or move on, or whatever, I’ll be ready. But I’m not dragging everyone else through that. I’m not letting them love you again only to get their hearts broken.”
A buzzing numbness washed over Nate as he trudged into his office. His every secret might be out there for the world to see, but he was done hiding. Besides, he had a job to do. Even if it was only temporary.
First thing on the agenda—get a hold of Trent. He’d been an idiot to think giving his brother what he’d asked for would be the end of it. His stomach took another sickening roll even as his hands curled into fists. Of all the emotions tumbling around in his skull like bowling pins, the foremost was anger. Particularly for what they’d said about his relationship with Delilah.
It was one thing to print the lies about him. It was another thing entirely to lie about Delilah or the Donovans. He deserved every ounce of vitriol that came his way. But she didn’t need this kind of mess. Especially not from him.
Every instinct in his body told him to run. Pack up. Go. Like he’d done before. Go with nothing. Start all over. But he had people who were counting on him. He had a company to hold afloat. Besides, if he ran again, he’d be leaving Delilah to deal with this whole mess on her own. And it wasn’t her fault. She’d tried to turn him into a metaphorical silk purse, and it had backfired on her.
A knock at his door dragged him out of his reverie. “Yeah, who is it?”
Steven strolled in, every bit the smug, cocky asshole, and Nate had to resist the urge to hit him. While it would feel incredible, it also wouldn’t change anything. His world would still be crumbling around him. “What do you want?”
“A bit touchy, aren’t you? Must have been a hell of a morning already. I can’t even imagine what’s it’s been like for you. What with the paparazzi camped out on your doorstep.”
Nate narrowed his eyes. You will not hit him. You will not hit him. You will—fuck it. He could do the time in lockup for the assault and it really would feel good. But he stayed seated. “I assume I have you to thank for this mess.”
Steven grinned and shrugged. “Maybe. Maybe not.”
Nate sat back. “Was it all worth it to you? I don’t give a shit what you say about me, but you should have left Delilah out of it. She never did anything to you.”
“Oh, yes, the love interest. I mean, you do come across as nothing more than a common thug, but to be doing the daughter of the family that took you in, that’s low, even for you.” He narrowed his eyes. “When I told you I would do everything in my power to take care of this place and keep it out of your low-class hands, I was serious. Whatever it takes.”
“No matter who you hurt in the process? Tell me something, Taraby. How does it feel to never have your ideas recognized?” Nate stood. “You’ve never had that one good idea that could have propelled you from simply mediocre to truly brilliant. You’ve gone after this company because you don’t have the skill or talent to build on your own, not because you love this place. I warn you that many people have underestimated me in my life. They’ve all ended up on the losing side. You’ll just be another one to add to the pile. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.”
Taraby glared at him, but made no move to leave. “The board will unseat you.”
“They are welcome to give it a shot, but until Chase returns, the only way to get me out of this office is to kill me.”
Steven Taraby narrowed his eyes. “That can be arranged.”
Finally. A direct challenge. He knew exactly how to handle this particular kind of snake. He wasn’t going anywhere. Not at least without annihilating this asshole first. “You’re welcome to try.”
USA Today Best Seller and iTunes Breakout Books author, Nana Malone’s love of all things romance and adventure started with a tattered romantic suspense she borrowed from her cousin.