D.L. Mains
 
   
D.L. Mains, Crystal Rose

The Crystal Rose

Jump To Excerpt: Chapter 1

The Crystal Rose…Where generations meet and romance still thrives.
 
A string of bad luck leads Sheridan McLaughlin back to her godfather and his precious nightclub for a job.  But once back at The Crystal Rose, Sheridan discovers that Uncle Joel has a new associate, none other than the infamous investment tycoon, Russell Madison, the son of a man her father hated for years.
 
Russell is, and always will be, a renowned womanizer who would commit every sin known to man before committing to a woman.  Unfortunately, Sheridan doesn't find out that he is not only an associate, but a new partner until after she decides that she detests him.  Russell has a knack for throwing her metabolism out of whack by setting off her temper, making her knees turn to jelly, indecently propositioning her, charming secrets out of her and sending her brain into a fixated stupor.  All reasons enough to despise the insufferable beast.
 
Russell has his own reasons for being at The Crystal Rose, but he never expected to be confronted with the problems of dealing with Joel's niece.  Her appearance at the club not only causes problems with his ultimate goals, but with his heart.
 
Despite their resistance and the malicious intent of a jealous suitor, nothing can stop the tumultuous relationship that grows.  Is their love strong enough to prevent history from repeating itself?
 
She is an opinionated, hot-tempered fireball and he is an arrogant, womanizing scoundrel, but is anyone who they seem to be at The Crystal Rose?

 

Excerpt: Chapter 1

Keith adjusted the focus on his binoculars and smiled as the image of his true love’s beautiful face sharpened. Hidden behind the trees of the island dividing the parkway, his view of her was perfect. He could almost hear her swear at the flat tire on her beloved old car. His estimates had been better than he’d anticipated. The slow air leak had caused her tire to go flat at the perfect spot.

She kicked the tire and he chuckled. If those black clouds opened up, it would be impossible for her to change the tire. He'd just drive over and come to her rescue. Her gratitude would…

"What the hell...?"

~~~

“Damn.” Sheridan McLaughlin threw the cross wrench to the ground. “It’s just not my week.” The jack joined the wrench on the ground next to the open trunk of her classic Mustang. First her job, then her apartment, and now this.

The wing nut securing the spare tire to the trunk was too tight, and she swore at that as well until it came off. She pulled the spare off the bolt and when it hit the ground, she noticed it didn’t bounce.

“Oh, for God’s sake.” She stared at the flat spare. Could anything else go wrong? Thunder rolled over the brushy dune beside the road. Sheridan looked up at the darkening April sky.

“Not having much luck, are you?”

She turned so quickly her forehead hit the latch of the trunk, and she would have stumbled backward into the trunk if the man hadn’t caught her arm.

“Whoa. You all right?”

Fear kicked in, her heart racing, and she pulled away. She hadn't heard a car pull up, yet there was the red convertible, not ten feet away.

Her gaze swept up the length of the man’s commanding frame. He was a giant, a wondrously attractive giant. In all her twenty-six years, she couldn't recall ever seeing a man like him. He exhibited leashed power, relaxed and controlled.

Jet black hair curled in an unruly fashion behind his ears to brush the starched white collar of his dress shirt. His muscular arms, crossed over his vast chest, caused his shirt to strain over shoulders that looked capable of carrying the heaviest of burdens. His narrow hips and long, black clad legs were lean and well-muscled.

Sheridan blinked several times to see if he was real or just a figment of her imagination. But there he was, over six feet of him and none of it wasted.

His face had a rugged, almost chiseled structure with a wide jaw, wider cheeks and a nose that looked as if it had been broken a few times. With the gray ominous clouds behind him, the nearby surf crashing on the shore and the wind ruffling his hair, caressing his hard form, it was as if his appearance alone had caused the turbulent turn of weather. He reminded Sheridan of an ancient god and she shivered, her mouth suddenly dry.

She pictured him leaning against the railing on the quarter-deck of a three-masted schooner, instead of on the hood of a Mercedes-Benz, and he should be wearing...nothing was her first choice, although an eye patch and a sword were a close second. Either way, certainly not those impeccably tailored clothes.
Yup, she had finally cracked.

Her gaze lingered on his engaging mouth until his sensuous lower lip curled into an amused little grin and his thick dark brows rose.

So, he was amused, was he? Her awe quickly disintegrated into annoyance. How long had he been standing there? Well, he could go on standing there for all she cared. She wasn't about to beg for help. One dose of humility a week was enough for any McLaughlin to endure.

~~~

Russell Madison looked up as the first drops of the promised rain sprinkled his face. He had admired the girl's determination—until he noticed the flat spare.

Her eyes moved over him, as most women’s did, and he smirked. Russell didn't kid himself. He knew he had an impressive physique, one reason his first meetings with women amused him. He was arrogant, but in his profession, it paid to be.

She straightened to her full height, not more than five-feet-four inches, and then, oddly, bent over and smashed her fist into the back of her right knee. Her antics intrigued him, even as the rain came down in earnest.

"There's no sense in us both getting wet. Don't let me keep you."

Russell couldn’t help laughing. She had dismissed him! His brother would have gone into a fit of hysterical laughter. "We're both already wet," he pointed out.

He noticed her scraped brow and frowned, reaching out to lift her face to see the damage. “Are you all right?”

"Don't touch me!" The girl jumped, moving away. She grabbed the wrench from the ground, holding it up between them.

He deliberately smiled, trying to ease the fear he saw in her eyes. She backed away from him and he noticed her form was anything but girlish. Her wet sweatshirt clung to her small figure, accentuating her feminine curves. The rain, heavy now, plastered her hair, twisted into a bun, to the top of her head while the wind whipped a few very long fallen strands around her face. She swiped at them and leveled her chin. Her glare was as threatening as the lug wrench.

The lug wrench worried him. He didn't want her hurting herself—or him, for that matter. "And what will you do with that?" He did his best to maintain an air of levity. "I've been told my screws are already loose."

She blinked at him. By God, she was lovelier up close. Clear, satiny skin glowed, her only makeup, even a bit smudged, enhanced her huge, almond-shaped emerald eyes. They outshone any jewel he'd ever seen. Her delicate bone structure, straight nose and high, pronounced cheekbones, combined with a slightly pointed chin, made her look like an elf. Her coloring fascinated him. Pale ivory skin contrasted dramatically with the massive knot of copper-gold hair piled on top of her head. Not even the stubborn set of her jaw detracted from her striking beauty.

He’d die if he didn't touch her. His heart sped up.

"Don't be afraid," he urged and reached toward her injured brow, licking his lips. His fingertips brushed the bruising skin and a shiver raced down his spine. The woman jumped back, pressing a hand to her cut. “Sorry, I didn’t mean—”

She took another step away and he frowned. He wasn’t used to people distrusting him. The striking little creature still held the steel wrench between them, as if she would gladly hit him in the head with it.

Another clap of thunder warned how severe the storm had become. Russell reached for the wrench and she pulled away from him. "Don't be a fool," he said. "Your spare is flat." Moving quickly, he twisted the tool from her grasp, tossed it, the spare and the jack into the open trunk and slammed it shut.

Her jaw dropped open as if she wanted to yell at him…or scream. Most people didn’t when confronted with a man of action. He’d used that method many times to get what he’d wanted.

He strode around her car, retrieved the keys from the ignition, locked the door and returned to his own car.

"Get in," he called over his shoulder. "I'll give you a lift."

The woman didn't move. She stared at him as if he was a moron. "I'm not going anywhere with you. And give me back my keys."

"The storm is getting worse. Get in the car!"

Her chin shot up. "Don't order me around, you arrogant Neanderthal. I don't know you from the devil, and I certainly will not get into a car with you!"

“Fine. I assume you’re going to The Crystal Rose. It’s the only building on this road. Do you know Joel Turner?”

“Of course.”

He pulled out his cell phone, wiped the rain off the display and dialed the number. “Joel? It’s Russ.”

“Russ? Everything okay?”

“Yeah, I’m fine. I’m trying to assist a woman here who says she knows you. Hang on.” He walked back around the car and held the phone out to the girl.

She looked at it and then reached out and took it. “Joel?” She listened for a minute. “You’re sure?” She paused again. “Yes, all right.” She closed the phone and handed it back. “He said I can trust you.”

“Wonderful. Will you get into the car now?”

When she hesitated, he opened the door for her, the rain spattering on his leather upholstery. "Look, I am trying to help you. I will not leave a woman stranded on the side of a deserted road in a thunderstorm. Not even a stubborn, sharp-tongued little fireball who probably deserves it. Please, get in the car."

She glared at him but climbed into his car.

Russell closed the door behind her and then rounded the car and got into the driver’s seat. "And you can wipe that hateful look off your face. I already regret my decision to stop."

"No one asked you to stop. I was doing just fine."

He pushed back his sopping hair. "I noticed," he retorted and turned to gaze out the windshield at the battered old Mustang. "That bucket of rust shouldn't even be on the road."

"That 'bucket of rust' is an antique. And, it was in the process of being restored."
"Really?" Russell couldn't help his sarcasm. "The restoration on an antiquity such as that would cost a fortune."

"You think?" she returned with equal sarcasm.

Nothing he had seen so far indicated she had that kind of money. "So who’s funding this restoration? Your parents?”

Her expression went blank as she looked out into the heavy rain hitting the windshield. "No," she said softly.

"Flown from the nest, have we?" Russell had meant to make her smile as well as get an estimation of her age. He hadn’t expected the hand flying at his face. He caught it mid-air and lifted his brows. "Temperamental little thing. Well, before you hit me, I think we should be properly introduced."

She pulled on the hand still within his grip but he held on. Just touching her was enough to send blood racing to all the right places.

"Joel said you could trust me, remember."

She looked at him thoughtfully. "Sheridan McLaughlin."

"Irish?"

"How clever. And without so much as a hint."

He pressed his lips to the back of her hand, smiling as he savored the silken skin. "Delighted," he murmured.

She yanked her hand away. "And you?"

"Russell Madison." He rested an arm across the back of the seat and smiled, waiting for the reaction, usually delight. "At your service."

Sheridan McLaughlin looked at his arm and then his face. "Is this when I bow down to your greatness?"

He stared at her. No recognition at all. Either she didn't know who he was or didn’t care. What an interesting concept.

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