Title: The Winner Takes It All by Jennifer Dawson
A Something New Novel
Publisher: Zebra Books
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 371 pages
For two stubborn people…
Corporate mogul Shane Donovan sees the ultra-cool, collected Cecilia Riley as an ice queen–even if he can’t deny that, on the surface, she’s a work of perfection his body can’t ignore. Forced to spend two weeks in the same house for his sister’s upcoming wedding, Shane senses that deep down Cecilia mirrors his need. And he’s determined to draw her into a sexy game that will melt away her reserve. . .
Losing is not an option…
Career-driven Cecilia Riley has just enough free time in her schedule to head out of town for her brother’s wedding. But her agenda is thrown for a loop by the presence of Shane. Though his over-confident attitude leaves a lot to be desired, his insanely hot body has kept Cecilia up nights. Unsure what game Shane is playing, Cecilia takes the bait, bent on resisting him at all costs.
But as Shane and Cecilia discover, temptation follows no rules…
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“Hello?” she called out, peering around the empty foyer. The walls were different. The rose-patterned paper had been replaced with a soft, dark gray paint she’d never have picked because of the dark wood moldings, but it looked exactly right.
She called out again, “Hello?”
A distant male voice yelled back, “In the kitchen.”
Why on earth hadn’t he answered the door? She tossed her bag on the bench and walked down the narrow hallway leading to the swinging kitchen door that had been in this house since its creation.
The kitchen told another story, thrusting her out of the past and into the future. It gleamed with newness. With gorgeous, industrial stainless steel appliances, distressed white cabinets, and polished granite countertops in various shades of cream, gold, and brown.
Under the extra-deep double sink, a man sprawled across the floor, his head under the cabinet. “Can you hand me that wrench?”
That voice. It never failed to send an irritating trail of tingles racing down her spine. She ground her back teeth until her temples gave a sharp stab of protest. Of course, Shane Donovan had to be the first person she ran into.
He bent one knee, pulling the worn fabric of his jeans across powerful thighs. Her throat went dry as her pulse sped.
Why him? Out of every man she’d ever encountered— and in her line of work, she encountered plenty—why did it have to be him? For heaven’s sake, he even belonged to the wrong political party. She shuddered.
It was all so . . . embarrassing.
But her body didn’t care, hadn’t cared since the first time she’d met him at Mitch and Maddie’s engagement party. The second her palm had slid into Shane’s, a disconcerting jolt of electricity traveled through her fingertips and up her arm. She’d had to force herself not to yank away, to keep her face impassive.
It was a good thing he didn’t like her. It was the one thing working in her favor. If she stuck to her current strategy of nurturing his disdain, he’d stay away, and her exposure would be minimal.
She walked over to the box of tools and stood over him.
Half hidden under the sink, he fiddled with her brother’s plumbing. Annoyed at his pure perfection, she wrinkled her nose.
At six-four, his frame stretched beautifully across the hardwood. His hips were lean. His stomach flat. Shoulders ridiculously broad. Most of the times she’d seen him he’d been dressed in a suit, but today he wore a pair of beat-up construction boots, faded jeans, and a thin white T-shirt. It was a crime against nature that a man who spent most of his time in boardrooms had muscles like his.
She’d analyzed her attraction, and for the life of her, she couldn’t come up with a logical explanation. Sure, he was good-looking, but so what? Good-looking men weren’t impossible to find. He was nothing like the men she dated. She preferred, well, men like her. Men who were more interested in politics and strategy than carnal pleasures. She enjoyed a relationship where sex was secondary to their intellectual connection. Not that she had a problem with sex—she didn’t. Her past encounters were all pleasant and civilized.
But nothing about Shane Donovan was civilized. And somehow she doubted sex with him was pleasant.
She shouldn’t be attracted to him. Period. End of story. Only her libido didn’t agree.
A loud clang sounded under the cabinet followed by a grunted curse. He stretched out his hand. “The wrench.”
Without a word she reached down, grabbed the tool, and plopped it in his palm with far more force than necessary.
“Easy there, honey.” The warm tone of his voice clearly not meant for her.
Who was ‘honey’? A moment of panic washed over her. Oh no. Was she going to be tortured by watching him with another woman?
The thought bothered her so much, she blurted, “I’m not your honey.”
He stilled for a fraction of a second, before sliding out from under the sink like the teasing reveal in bad porn. His strong jaw tightened as his piercing green eyes met hers. “If it isn’t the ice queen herself.”
His favorite name for her. He’d never called her honey, not even once.
The fine hairs along her neck bristled as something she refused to name sat in the pit of her stomach. It didn’t matter. Even if he tried, she’d have to put him in his place on principle alone. Endearments were dismissive, every good feminist knew that.
She slipped into the role he expected, ignoring the jab to ask coolly, “Where’s the happy couple?”
He got up from the floor with much more grace than a man weighing at least two hundred pounds should, turned, and flicked on the faucet with the touch of his fingers.
“Your brother’s out back.”
The muscles under his thin T-shirt flexed as he washed his hands.
She squared her shoulders. Good thing broad shoulders, muscular backs, and lean hips didn’t affect her. She was a sane, rational woman, not driven by hormones.
Her eyes locked on his ass.
Good thing she was above all that.
When the water ceased she snapped her gaze away and smoothed her expression into her most remote mask. He turned and gave her an assessing once-over. “I didn’t think you’d show until the rehearsal dinner.”
A muscle under her eye twitched. “I was invited. Mitch is my brother. Why shouldn’t I be here?”
“You Rileys aren’t much for family support.” He assessed her with a shrewd gaze. “So there must be another motive.”
Her spine bristled and she had the sudden urge to smack him across his smug face. Of course she didn’t, because that would be revealing and out of character. “I’m sure I don’t know to what you’re referring.”
He scooped up a beer bottle and raised it to his lips, taking a long, slow drink while watching her in that predatory way he had.
How could someone’s eyes be that green? So sharp and clear, it felt as though they pierced right through her.
The continued scrutiny gave her the urge to tug at her navy suit jacket and smooth her knee-length skirt, but she refused to fidget. “Is my mother here?”
“She went to the store with Maddie.” He placed the bottle back on the counter and rested his palms on the ledge of the granite that replaced the linoleum she remembered. “We’re out of Cheetos and Mountain Dew.”
She planted her hands on her hips and returned one of his long, disdainful glances. Her gaze settled meaningfully on his flat-as-a-board stomach. “Ah, that explains it. I’ve heard after thirty-five things go south rather quickly.”
His expression flashed with what looked like amusement. He straightened from the counter and took a step toward her.
The urge to retreat rose in her chest but she didn’t dare step back.
Never show weakness. Never break.
His eyes narrowed. “How’d you know I turned thirty-five?”
Damn it. See, this was why she ignored his barbs; she always said something far too telling. She shrugged one shoulder. “Oh, I hear things.”
“Investigating my background? How sweet. I didn’t know you cared.”
Of course they’d investigated all the Donovans when her brother became involved with Maddie. Just like Shane had investigated all of them, when his sister ran away to Revival. That’s the way it worked. Everyone knew that. Maybe she’d spent a little too much time on the oldest Donovan brother, but only because he was the most dangerous.
So yes, she knew all about Shane. Had a list of stats she could rattle off in her head in her sleep.
Occupation—CEO and owner of The Donovan Corporation.
Last significant relationship—one year ago with some tech genius.
High school grade point average—an abysmal 1.65.
Arrests—one at sixteen, for underage drinking.
The list went on, and as many times as she went over the facts, the essence of him was missing. How did he beat such impossible odds? Overcome such dire straits?
All by his thirty-fifth birthday.
Which she should not know was three months ago.
One week after hers to the day.
At the memory of her own birthday, she frowned. It hadn’t been a good day.
She’d spent her birthday in strategy meetings concentrating on repairing her father’s tattered image. Other than a small fifteen-minute work break, when the interns shoved a cake under her nose, her mother had been the only person to call.
That night she’d sat alone in her Gold Coast town house eating Chinese takeout by herself. After a bottle of wine, she’d contemplated her accomplishments, trying in vain to pat herself on her back.
Only to realize the things she’d listed had nothing to do with her.
She’d done nothing for her own life.
Not a single damn thing.
Jennifer Dawson grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and graduated from DePaul University with a degree in psychology. She met her husband at the public library while they were studying. To this day she still maintains she was NOT checking him out. Now, over twenty years later, they’re married and living in a suburb right outside of Chicago with two awesome kids and a crazy dog.
Despite going through a light FM, poem writing phase in high school, Jennifer never grew up wanting to be a writer (she had more practical aspirations of being an international super spy). Then one day, suffering from boredom and disgruntled with a book she’d been reading, she decided to put pen to paper. The rest, as they say, is history.
These days Jennifer can be found sitting behind her computer, writing her next novel, chasing after her kids, keeping an ever watchful eye on her ever growing to-do list, and NOT checking out her husband.
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