Contemporary Adult Romance
Orginally published July 2011
61,679 words, 210 pages
2-Flame Sensuality Rating
A PAST TO PLAGUE HIM…
When Reed Walker's sister is raped, memories of his miserable childhood haunt Reed and interfere with his perfectly structured life. To add to the chaos, just when dating becomes the last thing on his mind, Sophia Eschell, the very woman he's been dreaming about for the past three years, barrels into his life.
AND A WOMAN TO HEAL HIM…
After hooking up with too many troubled men, Sophia is determined to find a normal, average guy sans baggage. She turns her attention to Reed, only to discover he has more issues than anyone. But if he can learn to open up to her, can she honestly reject him or will she…kiss it all better?
(Revised and Republished from the 2011 version in July 2013)
"Damn it." Sophia Eschell fisted her hand and gritted her teeth. "I am so through with men."
"What was that, honey?"
With a squeak of alarm, Sophia spun around to find a blue-haired secretary peering up at her through a thick set of grandma glasses. Around them, computer keys click-clacked and copy machines beeped.
From her spot in the walkway between cubicles, Sophia cringed. "Sorry, Myrna. I was just talking to…Sweet mercy, I've started talking to myself." Pressing a hand to her brow, she groaned. "God, he's got me talking to myself." At work, no less
Eyes sparkling with suppressed laughter, Myrna guessed, "Man trouble?"
Sophia snorted. "Jerk trouble's more like it." Plopping onto the edge of Myrna's desk, she gave a long, shoulder-slumping sigh. "Tell me honestly, Myr. Is there something wrong with me?"
"Sweetie, there's nothing wrong with you." Making a tsking sound, Myrna patted her knee. "Tell old Myrna what happened."
"There's this guy," Sophia started, then sniffed. "Gary. I've been seeing him for a few weeks now. He just went through a divorce—at least, he told me he'd just gone through a divorce. And since his dad left him when he was ten, I thought he was having these major abandonment issues. I felt awful for him. I spent all my free time with him and even helped him pay his rent last month.
"But then today I stopped by his apartment on my break with some take-out, only to learn that someone else had already brought him food. His wife." She covered her face with both hands, too mortified to meet Myrna's accusing stare. "He wasn't divorced at all. Wasn't even considering it."
"Well, hell. He was a jerk."
"You're telling me." Sophia lowered her hands. "The trouble is it's been like this with every guy I've dated lately."
Myrna gasped. "They're all married?"
"No, no, of course not. But they all had some kind of major baggage in their lives. I keep thinking I can help them. But—"
"You've got too kind a heart. That's your problem."
Sophia sighed. "I thought a kind heart was a plus, not a problem."
"Not when you're dating users. And that's exactly what these men sound like." The older woman pointed at her knowingly. "You're a jerk magnet."
Sophia's scowl showed her lack of appreciation for the title. "A jerk magnet? I don't want to be a jerk magnet. Where the hell are all the nice guys? Why can't I attract them?"
Myrna chuckled. "Oh, they're a rare and scattered breed, my child. Not many around. And the ones who aren't already taken are usually too intimidated to come out of hiding in fear of being trampled by desperate women seeking nice guys like them."
Pushing to her feet, Sophia smoothed out the wrinkles in her slacks. "Thanks a lot, Myrna. Tell me I only attract users and then say all the good guys are afraid of me. I feel so much better. You're a real pal."
"Well, what about my boss?"
Sophia froze at the suggestion. "Reed?" The very name made her skin prickle with an odd tingling sensation.
"Yes, Reed. None of you girls ever flirt with him, and for the life of me, I can't figure out why not. The boy's a looker. He's clean-
cut and sweet as can be. A real gentleman. If I was thirty years younger, I'd be all over him myself."
"Myrna," Sophia murmured, acting scandalized.
Myrna and her high school sweetheart husband of thirty years had three grandchildren together that she constantly bragged about. Sophia leaned confidentially closer and winked. "My goodness. Does Reed know you have such a crush on him?"
The secretary flushed. "Well, he ought to." Fanning her heated cheeks, she mumbled, "I bring him my famous home-baked cookies at least once a month."
Sophia threw back her head and let out a crack of laughter.