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Small towns are definitely not for me. Probably because I was born in one, raised in one, and eventually run out of one. The understanding was that I would one day return to Chamberlin California. After all, it is my namesake. What my father didn’t count on however, was that once he sent me away, I would never come back—at least not until he was gone.
Which brings me to now, his wake, at the family winery that was supposed to be mine. It also brings me to her. The sweet girl I left behind. The girl who has since grown into the most beautiful woman I’ve ever laid eyes on—Laurel Anderson.
She’s looking at me as though she wishes I was the one she watched get buried this morning. But she’s out of luck. I’m alive and kicking. I’m also stuck in this town with nothing to do but wait until the will is read.
Well, nothing to do but see if I can seduce the pure and passionate Laurel, and change that anger I see in her eyes to something just as fiery…desire.
The last time I saw Noah Chamberlin, I was a doe-eyed innocent and he was the boy of my dreams. My future was all planned out down to the wedding dress, until one morning I woke up and he was gone.
You’d think after all these years, I’d feel the same blind indignation and rage that has haunted me since that day. Instead, the second I set eyes on him again, I felt something altogether unwanted and unexpected—lust.
If the rumors are true, he’s only going to be in Chamberlin for a few days. I can handle that, as long as he stops looking at me as though he’s thinking about the last time we were together.
But when Noah’s forced to stay and run the family business, it puts us in dangerously close proximity. And in a town this small, that can only mean one thing—trouble.
My heart all but stopped at the sound of my name in that smooth, seductive timbre, and my fingers tightened on the handle.
“Hi.” Brilliant. After all these years, that was what came out of my mouth.
A smile slowly curved Noah’s lips, as though he knew I was tongue-tied, and I wanted to kick myself—or him—for it.
I swallowed and tried to remember that somewhere inside my head I possessed a brain. Now if I could just locate it, that would be fantastic. “I, uh, I didn’t know you were coming today.”
“No? Everyone else in town seemed to.”
“Well, you know how it goes. You can’t rely on everything you hear.”
“Ah. So you heard—you just didn’t believe it.”
“I didn’t really think about it either way.” Liar. “I’m sorry for your loss, though. Harry was—”
“An A-grade bastard?”
My eyes widened at the cool edge to Noah’s voice. It was a tone I’d never heard from him before. But then again, I didn’t know this man, so I had no point of reference.
“That seems harsh, huh?”
“It seems…” Noah’s eyes locked on me with an intensity I felt all the way to my bones. “Honest.”
He shifted the wine bottle from one hand to the other, then he held it up by the neck and asked, “A good year?”
I focused on the label, a 2012 Pinot Noir. “It was a great year.”
Noah nodded and turned the bottle around so he could look at it again. “And you should know, or so I’m told. You manage this place now.”
I wondered who had told him. His mother? Or one of his siblings? I’d never imagined a career in the wine business, and I certainly hadn’t imagined one here at his family’s winery. But circumstances had left me little choice, and now I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.
“I do. I’m also the head sommelier.”
Noah let out a sound of disbelief that made my spine stiffen. I was good at my job—damn good at it.
“I hope that won’t be a problem for you.”
“A problem?” Noah shook his head. “No. I was just thinking how my family hasn’t changed at all. They still like their secrets.”
The temperature in the room dropped back to arctic, and as I was about to hightail it out of there, Noah took a step forward. I plastered my back to the door and, cursing myself for showing my hand—and my nerves—counted back from ten before daring to look him in the eye.
That was a mistake. I recognized those eyes and the thick lashes that curtained them. I also recognized the look in them right now. It was one of curiosity and interest.
“I wasn’t so sure about coming back here when I showed up earlier.”
His gaze roved over my face, as though he were searching for the girl he once knew, and I wondered if he saw parts of her in there.
“But suddenly I find myself even happier that that asshole up and died. Otherwise I’d never have known you were here.”
I wasn’t surprised in the slightest that my working here had been kept quiet. Harry had worked really hard to remove me from Noah’s life. He wasn’t about to tell him I was still around.
“Well, um, I don’t want to hold you up anymore, and I need to get back to your mother’s guests.” I turned to open the door, but when I felt his hand on my shoulder, my feet froze.
“Looking to make a quick escape again, Bonnie?”
I closed my eyes and for a second allowed myself to remember the first time he’d ever called me that. Then I quickly shoved it aside, not willing to allow in the emotions and vulnerabilities those kind of memories would bring.
“Do you blame me?”
There was a pause, and the tension simmering in the air made it even more imperative that I get out of there right now.
“No. I guess I don’t. But before you go?”
“Yes?” As his hand fell away, I let out a silent sigh of relief.
“I was wondering if you could tell me the best place to stay in town?”
A life-long fan of the romance genre, Ella writes contemporary and erotic fiction.
I am in a total SHOCK BOOK HANGOVER!!!
This book is EVERYTHING!
That Cover is perfection of bringing Punky Kelly to life!
Dark, hot, sexy, mysterious, sinful, twisted and a total PLOT TWISTS you will never see coming!
I mean I seriously am trying to wrap it all up. This story is the perfect naughty dark romance!
Be prepared to take notes and then some on who you can trust and then double check that list after you finish reading because you will have to scratch every name off it because you will be wrong. Wrong in a good way.
Everyone is a suspect and everyone will prove that they can't be trusted.
Author Monica James totally opened up the Dark Gates of Hell with this book.
Punky Kelly should be a book boyfriend you should want to hate, but you can't because with all the messed up things going on around him, how could you?
The scenery & the language of the characters in Northern Ireland are written as though you are right there with the characters watching everything unfold.
I am in need of Book 2 like NOW because I NEED TO KNOW!
This Trilogy is going to be the BEST!!
This is a Top 2021 Must Read book!