Perfect Fling by Carly Phillips (ARC copy)

Perfect Fling

Serendipity’s Finest Book #2

Erin Marsden and Cole Sanders
ISBN: 978-0425259726
Mass Market Paperback
July 30, 2013
Berkley Books

Book Blurb:

Assistant District Attorney, Erin Marsden,is Serendipity’s quintessential good girl.  The only daughter of the ex-police chief, she has never made a misstep, content with her quiet, predictable life … or so she thinks.  Until Cole Sanders returns to town with heated interest in his eyes and shadows in his past.
After seven years of deep under cover work in New York City, Cole returns to Serendipity to help his aging father and to find his moral compass once more. Not to get involved with wholesome Erin Marsden.  Even as a rebellious teen, he knew a girl like Erin was off limits and that hasn’t changed.  But neither one of them can resist their off-the-charts chemistry and a one night stand brings complications neither Erin nor Cole expected.

The Attraction … Off the Charts!
Then Erin’s current case plunges her into a killer’s crosshairs. With more at stake than anyone knows, Erin succumbs to Cole’s take-charge attitude. As a bodyguard, he’s the best. As a lover, he’s even better.  But there’s more than the matter of Erin’s safety at stake.  And Cole must forgive the sins of his past and prove to himself – and to Erin – that he’s capable of the love and the forever she – and their baby – desperately need.

Excerpt:
Erin Marsden had always been Serendipity’s good girl.  As Assistant District Attorney, only daughter of the ex-police chief, youngest sibling of two overprotective brothers, both cops, one of whom was the current police chief, Erin always lived up to expectations.  She’d never made a misstep, more afraid of disappointing her family than to step out of the stereotypical role she’d always, always fulfilled. 

Until last night.

She blinked and took stock of her surroundings: a strange bed, walls she didn’t recognize, and a warm, nude male body beside her very naked one. 

Cole Sanders. 

She stared at his too long mess of dark hair and the muscles in his upper back, thought about the way her body ached in all the right places, and she shivered.  No doubt about it, when she finally stepped out of the mold she’d created, she’d not only done a one-eighty but made the most un-good girl-like move she could think of.  A one night stand.

A one night stand.

The thought made her giddy and also slightly nauseas as she silently traced the path that had led her here.  She’d started yesterday at her brother Mike’s wedding to one of Erin’s closest friends, Cara Hartley, now Marsden.  Erin had been surrounded by friends, family and happy, loving couples everywhere she looked, making her the odd-woman out.  Not wanting to go home alone just yet, she’d stopped by Joe’s Bar.  Misstep number one

She’d let Cole Sanders, the man with whom she’d had an unrequited crush on as a young teenage girl, interrupt her dance with an old friend.  Misstep number two

He’d pulled her close against his hard body.  She’d looked into his dark almost navy eyes and seen a world weariness that tore at her heart, then acknowledged the sexual tension they’d both ignored since his return.  Misstep number three

And then she’d gone for gold, agreeing to join him upstairs in his room over the bar for an all night session of marathon sex. But she couldn’t label that misstep number four because sex with Cole had been phenomenal.  She didn’t know two people could generate such heat.  It had been that fantastic.  In fact, Erin thought, she’d stretch and purr in contentment right now if she wasn’t afraid of waking the man snoring lightly beside her.

Although their parents were good friends, Erin didn’t know Cole well.  Nobody did, not anymore.  Not even her brother Mike, who had been one of his closest pals, though Mike seemed concerned since Cole’s return.  Cole’s father had been her dad’s deputy chief of police until last year when Jed retired, but Jed Sanders never spoke of his son. 

According to Erin’s brother, Cole had dropped out of the police academy mere days before his graduation.  What Cole did after that was anybody’s guess but rumors ran crazy in their small town.  Some said Cole had gotten involved in organized crime in Manhattan, others claimed he ran drug and prostitution rings.  Having grown up around Cole, even if she had kept her distance from the rough and tumble bad boy he’d been, Erin couldn’t bring herself to believe he’d gone so wrong. 

Call her naïve, but she’d always seen something deeper in Cole, something good, even when he’d clashed with his tough as nails father.  Which didn’t mean she wouldn’t make her escape as cleanly as possible. 

What Erin didn’t know about awkward morning afters could fill a book.  The quiet, tepid affairs in her past always ended the same way, with a polite, it’s not you it’s me, before she’d walk away.  She’d never had to slip out of a man’s bed undetected before.
She snuck one last glance at his broad shoulders, rising and falling with every breath he took.  His arm muscles, sculpted from hard work and marked by ink, caused her to shiver anew. 

Breathe, she silently ordered herself. 

Think, she commanded next.  Her clothes were scattered around the bedroom, if she called her bridesmaid’s dress, clothing to sneak out in.  With a last look at the man who’d made the earth move for her last night, Erin eased out from beneath the warm comforter and rose, searching for her dress.  She bent over, stark naked, mortified her butt was in the air as she grabbed for her clothes.

“I didn’t peg you as the type to sneak out,” Cole said in a lazy masculine drawl.

She snagged her dress from the floor and turned to face him, hugging the light lavender fabric against her for protection, suddenly feeling every bit the good girl she’d been a mere twenty four hours ago.

“I’ve already seen every inch,” he reminded her, his heavy lidded gaze never leaving hers.

She flushed. “What type did you peg me for?” she asked, ignoring the humiliating part of his comment.

He eased up against the headboard.  Sexy, tousled and too handsome, one look had her wanting to crawl back into bed with him.  That wasn’t happening for a number of reasons, the first being a one night stand had a shelf life and she’d used up hers.  Second, to her extreme disappointment, he wasn’t asking.  And third, bad girl Erin was an aberration.  This morning, with no champagne in her system, respectable Erin had returned, more’s the pity. 

He stretched his hands behind his head and leaned back, studying her.  The sheet slipped below his navel and it took all her strength not to stare at his flat abdomen and the tented sheet.

“You were pretty gutsy last night, so I wouldn’t have figured you’d take the coward’s way out.”  He cocked an eyebrow, his expression serious.

Did the man never smile?  “And I wouldn’t have though you were the type who’d want a woman to stick around … after.” 

Which made her wonder why he hadn’t let her check out unnoticed, even if he had been awake.  It would have spared them both the awkwardness of … this.   Then again, they’d have to play this conversation out some time.  Might as well get it over with, she thought.
Then his words came back to her.  “I was gutsy?” She straightened her shoulders a bit at that. 

Erin was tough with her brothers and at work where she had to be in order to keep up with her boss and hold her own against defense attorneys and their clients.  But gutsy with men? That was a first and she kind of liked hearing it. 

“I left the bar with you.  That took nerve,” she said, almost pleased with herself.

He eyed her without cracking a grin, but she’d swear she saw a hint of amusement in his eyes.  Before he banked it, that is.

“I meant you were gutsy in bed.” 

His words along with the deep rumble of approval in his tone warmed her inside and out and the heat of a blush rose to her cheeks. 

“Thank you,” she said, immediately horrified.  Had she really just said that?

That earned her a sexy grin she’d never forget. 

“Back to my original point.  We go way back.  So no, I didn’t expect you to sneak out,” he said.  “Regrets?” he asked, surprising her with both the question and the suddenly defensive edge to his voice.

She immediately shook her head.  “None.”  It saddened her that he’d think she’d have them. 

Not that it surprised her.  No one in town had welcomed him with open arms and if anyone found out about last night, they’d think she lost her mind.  And if her brothers discovered her secret … She refused to go there.  If regret hadn’t kicked in yet, she doubted it would.  And she wouldn’t want him to think she was embarrassed that she’d slept with him.

“You surprise me,” he admitted, studying her intently.  “And I didn’t think there was much left in this world that could.”

He sounded as if he’d seen and done too much in his lifetime.  A part of her wanted to reach out and soothe his hidden pain.  But before she could dissect her thoughts or heaven forbid act on them, he spoke.

“But your instincts about me were right on.  I’m not much for long, drawn out morning afters.”

Disappointment stabbed her in the heart and that was too dangerous to even contemplate for long.  “Glad to know I’m still on my game,” she said, forcing flippancy when she felt anything but. 

Now that it was time to say goodbye, it wasn’t just awkward, it hurt a little more than she’d imagined it would.  Which, was what she got for thinking she could handle a one night stand with a guy she’d always had somewhat of a thing for.  No matter how young she’d been at the time.

“Since it was just a one night stand, you won’t have to worry about a repeat performance.”  She tossed the words as flippantly as she could manage.

“Pity,” he murmured.

She jerked in surprise.

Just as she was wondering if she had the nerve to ask him to turn around so she could get dressed, he flipped the covers off himself and rose from the bed – stark, gloriously naked. 

All thoughts fled from her brain.  She tried to swallow and choked instead, ending up with another blush as she continued to cough until the spasm passed.

“And that just confirms why it has to be one night only,” he muttered low, obviously more to himself than to her.

Erin hated puzzles and enigmas.  “What does that mean?” she asked.

“Erin, honey, in a world where nothing and no one is what they seem, you’re real.”  He pulled on his jeans, leaving the top button open and Erin drooling.  “And that makes you dangerous.”

“More riddles,” she told him.

He ignored her.  Strolling over to the dresser, he opened a drawer and tossed her a pair of drawstring sweats and a faded gray tee-shirt.  “Here.  You’ll be more comfortable – not to mention less conspicuous – leaving in these.”

She swallowed hard.  “Thank you.”

He gestured to the open door in the corner.  “Bathroom’s there.  Towels for the shower are in one of the drawers.  Take your time,” he said, and padded towards the small kitchen not far away in this small apartment. Nude.  Clearly he was a man comfortable in his own skin.

She shook her head, pushing away all thoughts except the rush to shower, dress and leave.  Any emotions or lingering feelings could wait until she was alone.  At which point, she’d do her customary internal summarizing of events and tuck this episode away in her memory banks for safe keeping, never to be revisited again – except on long, lonely nights when it was just her and her vibrator.  Because everything inside her knew, despite his brush off and surly attitude this morning, Cole had set the bar way too high for any man who came after him.

And Erin had already set it pretty damned high on her own.

Review:

I love the Serendipity series…the series is divided up into three categories on Carly’s page…the original Serendipity series, Serendipity Novellas, and Serendipity’s Finest (which is where this book goes).  The Serendipity’s Finest books can be read independently of the original Serendipity series.  Perfect Fling is book 2 in the Finest series.  I loved Erin and Cole’s story.  The chemistry the two of them shared helped Erin break away from her good girl shell and go after what even if Cole didn’t want her too.  Cole’s past made him think he was not good enough for anyone…especially Erin, but that all changed when someone started targeting Erin and Cole became her bodyguard!  Erin’s friendship, trust and affection for Cole changed him for the better…but would he realize it before it was to late??  
I would definitely recommend Perfect Fling to anyone who reads romance novels…I was hooked from the start and couldn’t put it down (even though I had to)
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