The Unyielding Bachelor Release Day + Other Stuff

TheUnyieldingBachelor-FullCover MediumToday is release day for The Unyielding Bachelor. Yay!

There are other things I want to mention to you today, but first things first. If you’ve pre-ordered The Unyielding Bachelor, your copy should already be sitting in your device, waiting to be enjoyed :)

If you haven’t ordered it yet, here are the links to the stores:

For ebooksAmazon US | Other Amazon Stores | Apple iBooks | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Google Play | All Romance Ebooks | Smashwords | Scribd

Paperbacks are also available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository and other stores.

I had a ball writing about Rick and Lexie’s love story, so I hope you have a thoroughly enjoyable time reading about this lovely couple!

Now, on to other things.

The Undercover Playboy

Book 3 in the Captured by Love series, The Undercover Playboy, can now be pre-ordered! Here’s the cover. Isn’t our hero hot?

TheUndercoverPlayboy-200x300It will be released on July 14, and I’m furiously working hard to make sure the book is ready by then :)

Click here to go to the page where you can find the book description and pre-order links for The Undercover Playboy.

A Request:
First, I want to say that you being interested enough in my books to go to the trouble of checking them out is already wonderful. And if you’ve taken the time to get them and read them, then I really couldn’t ask for more.

But if you’re someone who’s into reviewing stuff, I was wondering if you would consider leaving reviews for my books? Authors like me depend a lot on word of mouth to get our work discovered by new readers, and reviews help tremendously in that process. An honest review on Amazon (or the other stores) for The Unyielding Bachelor (once you’ve finished reading it), and also for The Unwilling Executive (if you’ve already read it), would be greatly appreciated. (If you feel like reviewing the other books as well, that would be awesome 😉 )

Thank you so much! And if you’re not into reviewing, no worries at all! (And I sincerely mean that.)

Become one of my ARC Reviewers:
If you don’t mind reviewing books, you might also be interested in becoming one of my ARC (Advance Reading Copy) Reviewers. ARC reviewers get free copies of my ebooks prior to them being released in exchange for an honest review to be posted on Amazon (and/or the other stores) on release day.

Unfortunately, places are limited so I can’t promise that everyone who expresses interest will be accepted. But I will try my best to accommodate as many interested readers as I can.

If you want to be considered, or if you want further information, please send me an email.

Well, that’s all for now! Hope you have a great day!

Much love,
Miranda xxx

 

The Unyielding Bachelor: Chapter Two

Hi again! Hope you enjoyed Chapter One of The Unyielding Bachelor. Without further ado, here’s Chapter Two 😉

TheUnyieldingBachelor-200x300The Unyielding Bachelor: Chapter Two

“Ow,” Lexie said under her breath as she gingerly walked towards the elevators.

“You okay?” Rick asked, clasping her arm in assistance.

“My feet are killing me,” she said with a rueful laugh. “I should have sat out that dancing marathon game. These heels weren’t right for it.”

“Mine are killing me, too,” Jade said, her steps as short and slow as Lexie’s as she hung on to Lucas.

“I’ll make sure Drew’s already waiting for us at the front,” Lucas said, fishing his phone from his jacket pocket to call his driver.

“Thanks, Lucas,” Lexie said, grateful for the thought and the fact that she and Rick were getting a lift with the couple.

In the past, she hadn’t taken full advantage of the time she’d spent with Rick whilst in the company of their friends. When surrounded with other people, she’d toned down her flirting, not wanting to appear as desperate as some of his admirers.

Right now was a case in point. Rick still had his hand on her arm, ensuring she had some support while she tried to walk with dignity. But what was she doing with this unexpected benefit from her aching feet? Nothing.

Well, that was about to change.

“Ow,” she said again—deliberately—and clung to him.

“Not far to go now,” Rick soothed.

That was a shame, because she was now hugging his arm. She only had to rest her head on his shoulder and they would look as sweet as Jade and Lucas.

“It’s funny how women’s shoes are so expensive, yet can be so uncomfortable,” Rick said.

“The things we do for fashion,” she murmured, wondering if Rick was minding the way she was grasping his bicep.

“And how do you know how much women’s shoes cost, bro?” Lucas teased.

“Try having a fifteen-year-old sister who’s starting to want to dress up like a grown-up,” he said dryly. “I tell Shelley she’s too young for high fashion and she tells me I’m too stodgy.”

“You sound more like a dad than a brother,” Lexie said with a chuckle.

“I do, don’t I?” he murmured. He had been both a brother and father to Shelley ever since their dad passed away three years ago.

“Have you seen her much lately?”

“Last time I saw her was almost a month ago,” Rick said wryly. “Funny how she used to be my shadow when she was younger. Not anymore.”

They made it to the hotel entrance, where the limo was already waiting for them. Drew opened the back door and Jade walked in first. Lucas stood aside so Lexie could follow but she pretended not to notice his gesture. She continued to hold on to Rick’s arm and patiently waited until Lucas took the hint and got in the car.

She could feel herself blushing. She was being obvious. But so what?

She rolled her eyes at herself. What happened to the promise she’d made not to chase after a man or fight over one ever again? Since finding out that the ex-boyfriend she’d set out to win back had been cheating on her for so long, that had been her motto.

But, no. She didn’t think she was softening her stance with Rick. This was a different situation. Besides, simply letting him know how she felt wasn’t exactly chasing after him.

She climbed into the limo and was grateful to see that Lucas and Jade were already cuddling inside. That meant she was definitely sitting next to Rick.

“I’m so tired,” Jade said, yawning.

“Well, you’ve had a bit to drink,” Lucas murmured, kissing her forehead.

“Hey, maybe Drew can take you guys home first,” Rick said to the couple as he settled himself next to Lexie. “Your place is closest from here.”

“Good idea,” Lucas said, then gave instructions to his driver.

Lexie cheered silently. She’d be alone with Rick at the back of the car for at least fifteen minutes.

*

“Lex.”

Lexie smiled as she felt Rick’s lips against her hair.

“Lexie.”

“Hm,” she said, keeping her eyes closed to savour the moment. It was nice hearing him say her name so softly. She shifted so she could snuggle against him even more, snaking her arm around his waist.

Rick chuckled. “Maybe I should carry you inside. I don’t think we can stay in here. Drew has to go home.”

The fog of sleep lifted and she bolted upright, reddening as she realised how she’d practically wrapped herself around Rick as she snoozed.

“Sorry,” she said, glancing at Jade’s and Lucas’s empty seats. “Have they gone?”

“Yes. You slept through the goodbyes.”

“Oh.” Great. She’d wasted her alone time with him.

Drew opened the door from the outside and she didn’t have a choice but to get out. To her delight, Rick followed.

“I’ll walk you to your door,” he said.

“I thought I heard you say you’ll carry me,” she teased.

Next thing she knew, he was sweeping her off her feet and into his arms. She let out a high-pitched shriek, clinging to his neck in surprise.

“Never let it be said that I disappoint a damsel with distressed feet,” he said with a grin as he strode towards her apartment building.

She giggled, suddenly shy and speechless. She tried to think of something funny or sexy to say, but all that ran through her head was how Rick must be hearing how hard and fast her heart was hammering in her chest. Gosh, she wasn’t expecting this.

With a sigh, she rested her head on his shoulder and closed her eyes.

“You’re not falling asleep on me, are you?”

Was he kidding? Fall asleep when she was in his arms? “No,” she answered. “Just enjoying the ride.”

He chuckled. “Well, we need your key,” he said as he stopped by the main door of the building.

She waited for him to put her down. But he didn’t.

“Key, Lexie,” he said, staring at her expectantly.

“Oh.” She hid her grin as she fumbled with her purse while still hanging on to his neck. “Here it is.”

Rick angled her so she could insert the key in the lock. Together, they managed to open the heavy front door with Rick still carrying her.

“You don’t have lifts,” he observed, looking around the foyer for the elevators.

“No. There’s only three floors in the building.”

“What floor are you on?”

“Second. So I guess you’ll have to put me down now.”

With a sigh, he did.

Holding on to him for support, she unstrapped her stilettos and dangled them in her hand. “See? Next best thing for distressed feet,” she said with a grin.

Rick chuckled. “Well, I guess you don’t need me anymore, so I better go. See you tomorrow night for dinner at my place,” he said. Then he waved and started to walk away.

She stared at his back in hurt disappointment. That was it? There was nothing more to carrying her than being a gentleman who was helping a friend with aching feet?

“Rick,” she called out.

He looked back just as he was about to open the door.

“You can’t go without getting your thanks.”

Rick raised his brows.

With as much sexiness as she could muster, she sashayed to him and slung her arms around his neck. “Thank you,” she whispered, then kissed him on the lips. Lingeringly.

Her heart was galloping, but at the same time there was calmness about her. He had to know. No more being coy about it.

She ended the kiss and watched his face for his reaction. His eyes were wide, his breathing shallow.

“Wow,” he said. “You’re very welcome.”

She smiled, staring into his eyes.

Rick cleared his throat and stepped out of her embrace. “Well, goodnight, Lexie,” he said in a too-loud-and-cheerful-for-the-moment tone. “That was a great way to end the day. Bring your appetite tomorrow night.” Then he left.

What?

She exhaled her chagrin. There was no way anyone could have mistaken that kiss for a friendly gesture.

She waited to see if Rick would at least turn back and wave. But no. He got into the car and closed the door without a backward glance.

Ouch.

He was plainly and simply not interested.

She took one long, deep breath to compose herself before she turned around and trudged up the stairs. When she opened the door to her apartment, a sleepy Erin Baker was walking out of the bathroom.

“Hi, Erin,” she said glumly to her other best friend and flatmate.

“What’s wrong?” Erin asked in a drowsy voice.

She smiled sadly. “Nothing.”

Erin frowned. “Nothing? When you and Jade called earlier to say that we’re all celebrating their engagement at Rick’s house tomorrow night, you sounded super excited. So what—or who—burst your bubble?”

She plopped on the sofa. “The same man. Rick.”

“What happened?” Erin asked, sitting next to her.

“You know how I’ve decided to be more overt with my feelings for him?”

Erin nodded, now seemingly wide awake.

“Well, I kissed him downstairs. And now I don’t have to wonder anymore. He’s not interested in me.”

“Oh, Lex,” Erin said with sympathy, putting a hand on her arm. “Did he push you away?” she asked softly.

“No.”

“He didn’t kiss you back?”

Lexie’s brows furrowed. “Actually, he did. There was even some tongue there.”

“So he did kiss you back and he didn’t pull away?”

She nodded. “But when I ended the kiss, he just said goodnight as if the kiss meant nothing.”

“He didn’t say anything else?”

“Well, he did say ‘wow’ and that I was very welcome—because I thanked him first before I kissed him.”

“He said ‘wow’?” Erin asked, her brows lifting.

“Yeah.”

“So he did enjoy the kiss.”

“I guess. But like I said, after that, he brushed it off.”

“Hm. Maybe because it’s late and he’s tired and you surprised him?”

She stared at Erin. “You think? But that’s how he always reacts every time I flirt with him. I thought before that I just haven’t done enough to make him notice that I like him. But this kiss was different. It definitely wasn’t friendly.”

Erin sighed. “I don’t know then, Lex. Sorry.”

“But do you think kissing me back and saying ‘wow’ could be something?” she asked, wanting to hang on to whatever possibility was left. “Plus, he carried me to the door.”

“Carried you?”

She told Erin the whole story.

“Geez, it’s hard to tell, Lex. But if you’re game, why don’t you keep persisting with your flirtation plans? Who knows what might develop from there?”

She chewed her bottom lip, worried and uncertain.

“Alexia, I know what you’re thinking,” Erin said with soft censure. “But you’ve gotta be a little more flexible with this no-chasing-after-a-man thing. I think you’re backing away too early. Why don’t you see how he interacts with you tomorrow night and go on from there?”

“Okay,” she said, marshalling her courage again. “I guess I could just have surprised him tonight. Tomorrow might be different.”

“I’ll be watching his reaction, too,” Erin said.

She nodded, eager and apprehensive for what was to come.

*****

“Hey, gorgeous!”

“Hi, Rick,” Lexie said with a bright smile, preparing to tiptoe and kiss him as close to his lips as she dared with people watching.

But she wasn’t fast enough. Rick had already leaned down to plant a peck on her cheek. A very light, almost-nothing peck.

Well, what should she make of that?

With a sinking feeling, she watched as Rick gave her friends smacking kisses and warm hugs.

“Shelley’s in the kitchen. She’s excited to see you guys,” Rick said, walking towards the back of his impressive house and motioning for everyone to follow.

Erin pulled her so they lagged behind.

“He is most definitely different with you,” Erin whispered.

“What did I tell you?” she asked dryly.

“That’s a good thing, I think.”

She frowned at Erin. “How can kissing the air instead of my cheek be a good thing when everyone else got something more enthusiastic? If that wasn’t a clear hint that he’s not interested, I don’t know what is.”

“But I also saw the way he looked at you.”

Her heart jumped. “How did he look at me?”

“It’s hard to explain, but there was something in his eyes.”

“What something?”

“Something different.”

“That doesn’t help, Erin.”

“Well, there was… tenderness, I think. Or warmth. I don’t know. He might have been distant with his kiss, but his eyes gave me the opposite impression. To be honest, I’ve noticed him look at you differently before. I just didn’t want to bring it up because I’m not sure what it meant.”

“Really?”

“Hey, didn’t Jade say that Rick could have a good reason to stay single?” Erin said. “What if he’s interested in you but just can’t act on it?”

She frowned. “So how can I find out if that’s the case? And what’s stopping him?”

“We’ll work on finding out,” Erin said with determination.

She smiled at her friend, giving her a quick thank-you hug. Even though Erin was still getting over her recent breakup with a guy she’d been with for a couple of years, Erin had remained upbeat about love. She was an incurable romantic.

“All our guests are here, Shel,” they heard Rick say as they entered a large kitchen fit for a serious chef.

“Hi, guys!” said a pretty blonde girl who ran to them with exuberance. “I’m so glad to be feeding all of you tonight.” She gave each of them a massive bear hug, with a shriek of congratulations for the engaged couple.

Lexie grinned, returning Shelley’s greeting with a tight embrace. She loved Rick’s sister. She wasn’t a brat at all, even though Rick had that nickname for her. Shelley was warm and open, with a delightful sense of humour. Tonight, she was wearing an apron that said I’m my brother’s boss.

“Nice apron, Shel,” Lucas commented.

“Well, it’s true in some ways,” Shelley said with a grin.

“Having it printed on your favourite piece of clothing doesn’t make it true, brat,” Rick said, patting his sister on the shoulder.

“I’m so excited, Shelley,” Jade said. “And we’d all love to help.”

“Yes, we’re here to get our hands dirty,” Lexie added. “Tell us what you want us to do.”

“Well, since this is an engagement dinner for Jade and Lucas, maybe the two of them can just sit and watch. I do need extra help or we won’t be eating for another couple of hours because Rick is sooo slooow with everything.”

“Gee, thanks, sis,” Rick said sarcastically. “Glad to know my efforts are appreciated.”

“Why don’t you just pour your guests some drinks?” Shelley asked him with an unapologetic but sweet smile, then proceeded to give instructions to Lexie, Erin and Cassie.

The three women happily did what Shelley had assigned to them, leaving the girl to focus on preparing some special sauces for her dishes.

Lexie was reminded why Shelley impressed her. The girl was a pro in the kitchen. At this rate, they’d be having dinner in no time. She couldn’t wait. She was starving.

But busy as she was, she made sure she took the time to give Rick provocative looks. She even gave him flirty nudges whenever the opportunity presented itself. She wanted him to know that kissing him last night wasn’t meant to be a one-off thing.

He didn’t respond in kind, though, which was a bit of a downer. But she wasn’t going to let his lack of enthusiasm get to her. For all she knew, Rick was just feeling self-conscious in front of their friends. That was a possibility, right?

“By the way, Rick,” Shelley said, looking up from her task after quietly concentrating on it for long minutes. “I was talking to Aileen earlier today. She said she might pass by here tonight to drop something off.”

Lexie noticed how Rick’s head jerked towards Shelley.

“Didn’t you tell her we’re busy tonight?” Rick asked, glaring.

“Yeah. But she said she won’t be staying long. She just wants to hand me something.”

“What?”

Shelley shrugged just as the doorbell rang. “That’s probably her,” she said.

Lexie stared surreptitiously at Rick as he walked out of the kitchen. He was clearly uncomfortable with the arrival of this Aileen woman. Why? And who was she?

“Who’s Aileen, Shel?” Lexie asked casually.

“His girlfriend. I mean his ex-girlfriend,” Shelley answered, looking very pleased, like things were going the way she’d planned. It wasn’t hard to guess the girl’s intentions.

Gloom swiftly descended onto Lexie. But this wasn’t the time and place to wallow in the reasons for Rick’s ex being here, so she tried to push it away.

“Hi, everyone!”

Lexie looked up and saw a brunette standing by the threshold.

“Aileen!” Shelley cried delightedly.

Lexie’s heart sank. Aileen was absolutely stunning.

###End of Chapter Two###

That’s it for now. You can enjoy the rest of the story when it comes out on the 19th of May :)

Can’t wait for release day! Until then, take care.

Much love,
Miranda xxx

You can pre-order your copy of The Unyielding Bachelor from:

Amazon US | Other Amazon Stores | Apple iBooks | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Google Play

 

The Unyielding Bachelor: Chapter One

Not long to go before May 19! That’s the day when The Unyielding Bachelor (Captured by Love, Book 2) is released. Yay!

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed writing about Lexie and Rick’s love story, and I can’t wait for you to read it.

It’s time to share the beginning with you, so check out the hunk on the cover, then enjoy Chapter One!

TheUnyieldingBachelor-1200x1800

The Unyielding Bachelor: Chapter One

Lexie Mead cast a narrowed gaze towards the hunky Rick Donnelly, sipping the excellent wine he’d poured for her as she wracked her brains for fresh ideas that would help her fulfil her mission.

It was exactly twelve months to the day since she’d first met him—right here in the same ballroom of a five-star Sydney hotel—and it frustrated her how little progress she’d made in making him take her flirtations seriously. What else could she do, apart from acting desperate, to make him see that she wanted to be more than friends?

They’d been introduced to each other at this same function last year—the Staff and Partners Halloween Dinner held by Bilton Machineries, Lexie’s employer and Rick’s business partner. Back then, she’d fallen in an instant crush.

Today, she’d be lying to herself if she didn’t admit that in one year, not only had their friendship developed, but her feelings for him had grown deeper. Much deeper.

With mutual friends and work connections, it had been easy for her to find ways to get into Rick’s circle of friends. With Rick also rekindling his friendship with Lexie’s older brother Brad—his former schoolmate—after years of losing contact, Lexie had been lucky enough to spend a lot of time with Rick in the past year.

But Rick couldn’t seem to see past the friendship barrier. Even right now, the gorgeous man was oblivious to her attention as he chatted with Minda, the recently hired business development manager, who was being way too tactile with him.

Lexie huffed. She knew Minda’s game. She was sure that the woman’s friendly gesture was to hide the fact that she simply wanted to feel Rick’s bicep. Lexie wouldn’t even be surprised if Minda would soon try to—

Ah, there! The flirt had grabbed Rick’s hand, giving him a come-hither look as she tried to pull him to the dance floor.

Lexie gave her officemate an evil eye although, of course, it had gone unnoticed. Fortunately, Rick shook his head, raising his wine glass, probably indicating he wanted to finish it.

Good! So he should. An expensive, limited edition Cabernet Sauvignon shouldn’t be ditched just because some female wanted to dance with him.

Unless, of course, that female’s name was Lexie Mead.

Lexie sighed. Sometimes she wondered if Rick meant more whenever he hugged and squeezed her tight, or teased her with that tender look in his eyes, or made sweet comments that made her heart race. But with Rick never asking her out on a date, she had no option but to believe she was merely reading more into his actions than what was really there.

Minda finally left and Rick noticed her gaze. “You look deep in thought there, Lex,” he said, grinning in that cute way of his.

She smiled mysteriously. “Yes. I’m trying to come up with a plan to make you fall in love,” she said lightly, stopping short of adding ‘with me’ at the end of her sentence. Last thing she wanted was to scare him off.

“You’re not really gonna bet on me, are you?”

She grinned at the scepticism on his face. His squinting brown eyes and lopsided smile indicated he didn’t believe she’d go ahead with her intention to join the betting game set up by some of his female friends. With the number of bachelors in Rick’s circle fast dwindling, some of the women had decided to bet on who would be next to come off the singles market.

“I am most definitely betting on you,” she answered.

Rick shook his head. “Don’t waste your money, Lex.”

“Your warning and concern are duly noted. But I understand that the winners have to donate their winnings to charity. So if I lose, I won’t mind. Besides, I’ve had an unexpected windfall. I can afford it.” She waved the gift certificate she held in her hand. It was her prize for coming first in tonight’s pantomime game—the highlight of every Bilton Machineries Halloween Dinner. The amount on the gift certificate was eye-popping. As one of Australia’s biggest companies, her employer was well known for being generous to its staff.

Rick smirked. “You’re gonna risk your hard-earned prize to bet that little-old-me would be the next guy to be captured by love?” he said, a hint of mockery in his tone. “I’m trying to help you here, Lex. I’d feel guilty when you have to pay up.”

She shook her head. Clearly, the man had no idea why she was joining the game—and why she was going for him.

“I think Lexie would win this bet, Rick,” teased Jade Tully, one of Lexie’s best friends who was also PA to the Bilton Machineries’ CEO—and who’d gotten engaged tonight to the CEO’s son, Lucas Renner-Bilton.

“C’mon, Jade,” Rick said. “I’m telling everyone not to put money on me, and here you are, encouraging your friend to squander her fortune on a lost cause. Lucas, say something to your fiancée.”

Lucas, who also happened to be one of Rick’s closest friends, shrugged. “I’ve already told Jade that Lexie’s chances are slim if she’s picking you to be the next to fall,” he said.

“Aw, Lucas,” Lexie said. “You, of all people, should know that men like Rick do fall. Look at you. No one won the first round of bets because no one picked you. And yet just a few minutes ago, you were up on stage proposing to Jade.”

“And you think Rick would follow in my footsteps? I’m just lucky to find Jade, Lex. Rick doesn’t have the same kind of luck I have,” Lucas joked.

She could only smile because she wasn’t at all certain that Rick was ready to get into a serious relationship. In fact, he’d openly declared that he wasn’t looking for a girlfriend.

Nothing surprising about that. Rick was a ladies’ man who had attractive women flirting with him left, right and centre. And at thirty, he was a successful entrepreneur who owned a chain of luxury car dealerships. His clients were among the wealthiest people in Australia.

Any guy who had lots of wannabe girlfriends like he did would find it hard to want to settle down. What for, when there were plenty of girls who weren’t demanding exclusivity?

She repressed a sigh and smiled instead as Jade sat next to her. “Had enough of snogging your new fiancé at our company party?” she teased.

“No,” Jade said with a giggle.

“You are so glowing, Jade,” she said with a smile, truly happy for her friend yet envious at the same time.

“Thank you. But let’s talk about you and the bet. You ready to let Rick know how you feel?”

She glanced at Rick and Lucas, who were busy having their own conversation. “Since my flirtations are going unnoticed, I think I need to come out a little bit more,” she whispered.

“Lucas said something to me a few minutes ago.”

“What?”

“He said that Rick has a very good reason for staying single,” Jade said conspiratorially.

She frowned. “What reason?”

“Lucas said he’s not at liberty to say.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, it’s intriguing,” Jade said. “I could cajole Lucas into telling me about it, but I don’t want to pressure him. It sounded like he’s made a promise to Rick to keep it confidential.”

“Maybe Rick himself would tell us.”

“Well, since you’ll be seducing him…” Jade teased.

She grinned. “You know what? Now that I’m quite set on it, I can’t wait to start.”

“Rick better watch out,” Jade said with a laugh. “His days as a free man could be numbered.”

Lexie sighed. “And I aim to be the one to put an end to it.”

*****

“Are you gonna tell Lexie?” Lucas asked Rick in a low voice.

“Tell her what?”

“The reason why you have to stay single for a few more years?”

Rick shook his head. “You know I’ve gone down the path of telling a woman that in the past, with almost disastrous consequences. It’s not worth the risk. Besides, I don’t really see the point in letting Lexie know.”

“The point is she’s interested in you. Don’t tell me you haven’t noticed.”

“Of course I have,” he answered, trying not to stare at Lexie, who looked extra stunning tonight. Her long caramel hair was in a bun with curly wisps flowing freely around her beautiful face. Her light brown eyes—he liked to think of them as honey—were perfectly framed by those extra-long lashes of hers. And hell, her black evening dress accentuated her sexy curves so well that he had to constantly remind himself not to drool.

No, Lexie showing interest in him had never gone unnoticed.

“And you do know what she meant when she said she was betting on you, right?” Lucas asked.

He nodded, exhaling a heavy breath. Lexie cranking up her flirtations would drive him crazy. It was hard enough to pretend that her actions didn’t affect him. If she pushed the envelope further, even by just a notch, he’d be in big trouble. He didn’t have much resistance left when it came to her.

Acting like he only saw Lexie as a friend was taking its toll. He knew that when he got home tonight, he’d be staring at his ceiling with a heavy weight on his chest, wondering what it would be like if he could let her know he was attracted to her, too.

His jaw tensing, he silently cursed his stepmother for his predicament. If Betty Donnelly weren’t the scheming woman that she was, there’d be no need for all this pretence.

His phone vibrated in his pocket. He checked it and excused himself to take the call.

“Hey, Shel,” he said to his fifteen-year-old half-sister, whom he loved to death.

“Hi, Rick. Can I stay with you tomorrow night?” Shelley pleaded.

“Why? What’s wrong?” he asked, frowning.

“Nothing. Mum’s taking home this new man for dinner tomorrow and I don’t wanna be home for that.”

“Ah. And I thought you were just missing me. I should have known better,” he said with a mock sigh, loving to tease her.

“Hey! Just because I get too busy spending time with my own friends doesn’t mean I don’t miss you. You know you’re still my favourite guy in the whole wide world.”

He smirked. “Yeah, yeah, yeah.” His sister was a responsible kid with maturity beyond her years, so he didn’t usually worry about her getting into any trouble.

“So can I sleep over at your place tomorrow night? Please?”

“And here I was, looking forward to a no-brat weekend.”

“Why? Do you have a new girlfriend coming over? Remember I’m not twenty-one yet!”

“Can’t you grow up faster?”

“Sorry,” Shelley said, her tone turning remorseful. “You have to wait another six years before you can have a proper relationship.”

He relented. “Hey, it’s not your fault. How many times do I have to tell you that?”

“Aileen still calls me and asks how you are.”

“Does she? You don’t need to entertain her calls, you know.”

“She said she’s still waiting for you.”

“Oh, God,” he said with a groan. “Shel, please don’t keep her hopes up.”

“But you only broke up with her because you had to! Because Mum is just so… so… unreasonable!”

“I didn’t have to, Shelley. Aileen and I weren’t working out.”

“Well, I still think it’s nasty of my mother to force those conditions on you,” Shelley said with resentment.

He sighed. He didn’t have a problem disliking Betty. They weren’t blood related. But it saddened him that the woman lacked certain traits to be the ideal mother Shelley could look up to.

“Can we talk later, Shel? I’m at a corporate function.”

“Oh, sorry. I thought from the noise that you’re in some club. So can you tell Mum that you want me to stay over tomorrow for some brother-sister bonding time? You know how disappointed she gets when I refuse to meet her dates. Apparently, she really likes this one. His name’s Todd.”

“Will you cook something for me?” he quipped.

“No problem.”

“And clean up afterwards?”

“That’s child slavery! I’ll cook, but you clean up.”

“Hey, who’s doing who a favour here?” he said with a chuckle. Shelley hated cleaning up as much as she loved cooking.

“You can always leave it to your housekeeper,” Shelley suggested hopefully.

“No, Shel. She has the weekends off.”

“Well, then, tell you what,” Shelley said. “There’s a couple of new dishes that I’ve learned how to cook and I want to practice making them in bigger quantities. Why don’t you ask some of your friends to dinner? I’ll cook for everyone. Then you can ask them to help you with the cleaning up.”

He laughed. Shelley was one smart cookie who knew how to twist his arm. At a young age, she was already a phenomenal cook who was always keen for opportunities to show off her culinary skills.

“Maybe I’ll invite Lucas and Jade. They got engaged tonight.”

“Ooh, did they? Let’s make it a special engagement dinner for them, then,” Shelley said excitedly.

“Okay.”

“Great! You’ll have to pick me up early, like three o’clock.”

“Why so early?”

“Because we have to go grocery shopping first. And I’ll need plenty of time to prepare.”

“Right. But I still have to ask Lucas and Jade. If they can’t come, it’ll just be you and me, okay?”

“Okay. By the way, Mum asked me the other day if you’ve decided to increase my monthly allowance.”

“Why?” he asked with instant suspicion.

“Something about the cost of living going up and how I need to pay more towards food and the house upkeep.”

“What?” He suppressed his curse words for Betty. “House upkeep already comes out of your account because you own the house. You know she doesn’t pay a cent towards it. So what did you say?”

“Nothing. I told her to talk to you and, of course, she won’t. She’s just being her usual self—always complaining how unfair everything is.”

Rick bit his tongue to stop himself from ranting against Betty. He didn’t want to say anything else that would make Shelley lose respect for her mother. Even with Betty’s obvious faults, Shelley was still keen to maintain a good relationship with her mum. She did have a lot of love for the woman who’d given birth to her, and vice versa.

“I’m glad it’s you who’s now managing my money, Rick,” Shelley said quietly.

He pressed his lips. That came at a high price. But he had no choice but to bear it for both his and Shelley’s sake.

“You’ll talk to Mum about tomorrow night, right?”

“Yes. And I’ll drop you off to school on Monday.”

“Thank you, best big brother in the world,” Shelley crooned. “I love you heaps.”

“Love you, too, brat.”

He hung up and went back to join Lucas, Jade and Lexie.

“Hey, you guys doing anything tomorrow night?” he asked, including Lexie in the conversation. Why not invite her too, right? Shelley wouldn’t mind.

“We’re having a get-together with Erin and Cassie to celebrate our engagement,” Jade said.

Damn. Jade and Lexie’s two other best friends had beaten him to it.

“Why do you ask?” Lucas said.

“I was just talking to Shelley. She wants to stay over at my house tomorrow night. When she heard that you guys got engaged, she said she wants to cook a special dinner for us.”

“Ooh,” Jade said, a delighted smile appearing on her face. “I’m sure Erin and Cassie won’t mind if we reschedule.”

Rick laughed. These guys had tasted Shelley’s cooking once before. Needless to say, they’d loved it.

“Erin and Cassie can come, too,” he offered, “so you don’t have to miss out on your girlie night.”

“Shelley won’t mind?” Lexie asked. “There might be too many of us—although we’ll be more than happy to help her in the kitchen.”

Rick pulled out his phone and rang his sister, who was ecstatic at the thought of more people eating her food. “The girls said they’ll help, too,” he added.

“But I’ll be the head chef, right?” Shelley asked.

He rolled his eyes. “She wants to be the head chef,” he said to Lexie and Jade.

“Of course!” the women responded.

“I heard that. Yay!” Shelley said.

He was grinning when he hung up.

“I can’t wait, Rick,” Lexie said. “I’ll have to remember to bring my special recipe notebook so I could jot down some notes. Your sister’s such a genius in the kitchen.”

“I have to say that’s not an exaggeration,” he said proudly, smiling at her.

Lexie grinned back, and something in her eyes hit him hard.

Warmth.

The kind that he could wallow in for hours on end. The kind he’d find hard to leave.

He shook his head surreptitiously and peeled his gaze off her. He already knew how dangerous it was to stare into Lexie’s eyes. How many times did he have to remind himself to keep eye contact to a minimum?

He could always suggest the no-strings thing with her—that wouldn’t be against the rules. But he had a feeling that would be such a bad idea. He only had to look at her and his heart would go freaking haywire. Why start something that could get him in deep trouble?

He hid a sigh. He’d never had a problem avoiding women who could rope him into wanting a relationship. But Lexie had been sorely testing his restraint. And he was getting exhausted of pretending. So exhausted.

Unfortunately, he had no choice but to stick with the only safe thing: keep Lexie at a distance.

###End of Chapter One###

The Unyielding Bachelor is now available for pre-order from the following stores:

Amazon US | Other Amazon Stores | Apple iBooks | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Google Play

Book Description:

He has to stay away from her.
Thirty-year-old entrepreneur Rick Donnelly is under contract to remain unattached until his fifteen-year-old half-sister turns twenty-one. If he breaks the rule, not only will he have to hand over the management of his half-sister’s substantial inheritance to his reckless stepmother, but he’ll also have to transfer twenty percent ownership of his company to the untrustworthy woman. When the tempting Lexie Mead decides to knock down his heart’s defenses, he finds himself in danger of breaking the contract’s strict condition–something he simply cannot afford to do.

She intends to win his heart.
Twenty-six-year-old Lexie Mead has long had feelings for the hunky Rick Donnelly. Tired of being treated as just another one of his friends, she sets out to win his heart from prettier and more aggressive women admirers. But Rick has complications to deal with… and enemies who will do anything to see him fail. She doesn’t want him to lose the things he’s worked hard to keep. But how can they have a future together when she is forced to walk away and Rick can’t ask her to stay?

The Unyielding Bachelor can be enjoyed as a stand-alone or as Book 2 of the Captured by Love series. I recommend reading the books in order to fully enjoy the series.

Book 1: The Unwilling Executive (Lucas Renner and Jade Tully) – still only US$0.99! Click here if you haven’t got your copy of this book yet.

*****

Stay tuned for Chapter Two of The Unyielding Bachelor!

Much love,
Miranda xxx

The Unwilling Executive: Out Now!

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Lucas and Jade’s love story is now live! If you’ve pre-ordered, please check your devices to make sure you got your copy. If you haven’t downloaded it yet, please click here to find all the store links to the book. It’s currently only US$0.99.

Thank you so much for being with me as I continue to write more steamy and stirring romance novels for your enjoyment. I truly hope The Unwilling Executive finds its way into your hearts. Lucas and Jade challenged me but in the end, even I was touched by how their love story unfolded :) .

Happy reading and feel free to let me know what you think!

Much love,

Miranda xxx

P.S. Book 2 of the Captured by Love series, The Unyielding Bachelor, is now available for pre-order.

The Unwilling Executive: Chapter Two

Hi again! Hope you enjoyed Chapter One of The Unwilling Executive.

Pre-order for this book is now available from Amazon and Kobo at a special price of $0.99.

It’s not up on the other stores yet, but hopefully it won’t be too long before you can pre-order it from the other places.

For now, here’s Chapter Two. Enjoy!

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Jade stood by the threshold of Thomas Bilton’s impressive office, her boss so focused on his computer that he hadn’t noticed her standing there. For a man who was almost sixty-five and could retire with more money than Jade would know what to do with, Thomas still worked at least fifty hours a week.

Jade had already experienced how exacting Thomas was as a boss. She didn’t mind it. It was actually quite inspiring. In the handful of days that she’d worked for him, she could see why he’d become very successful.

Besides, she’d heard from Lexie how generous Thomas was to his dedicated employees. Jade hoped to be on the receiving end of some eye-popping bonuses, too.

But right now, she wasn’t looking forward to the conversation she was about to have with her boss. Contrary to what Lucas had accused, she wasn’t someone who did things without question. So even though she’d be risking her boss’s ire, she had to say something about the way she’d been kept in the dark about what Lucas had been told. She didn’t want to establish a precedent she wasn’t comfortable with.

She rapped on the door, making Thomas look up.

“Jade!” Thomas rose from his chair and gazed at her with hopeful anticipation.

Jade hid a sigh as she walked towards her boss’s desk.

“Lucas turned up?” Thomas asked, gesturing for her to take a seat.

“Yes, sir,” she said, sitting down. “His answer was no. He also said he didn’t appreciate being conned—”

Thomas gasped. “He read the letter?”

“Yes. But—”

“He read it?” Thomas asked again in delighted disbelief.

“Yes, and he said no to whatever’s in it, sir,” she repeated, wondering if her boss hadn’t heard her earlier. “But, Mr. Bilton—”

“Oh, Jade. Thank you!”

Jade frowned in confusion.

“This is progress,” Thomas said, still looking thrilled. “Do you know how many times I’ve tried to get him to listen to what I have to say? I sent him emails and tried to call him. But he didn’t want to listen to a single word. Then I got other people to intervene on my behalf. Still no success—until now. I don’t expect him to have a change of heart from the one letter you handed him, but I’m encouraged that he read it.”

Jade took a deep breath. Well, that was an unexpected reaction.

“What did you say to him?” Thomas asked eagerly. “How did you get him to read the whole letter?”

“I pleaded with him, sir,” she said with a shrug. “He really wasn’t happy, Mr. Bilton. And if you don’t mind me saying, I wasn’t either. Lucas said he’d been lied to just so he would turn up to our meeting. I would have appreciated if you’d told me that.”

“Oh, Jade, I apologise. You see, I needed you to look innocent to boost the chances of his reading the letter. If he got an inkling that it was from me, he wouldn’t have opened it. So it worked!”

Jade stared at Thomas. The man was practically glowing, making her ignore her annoyance. Whatever this was about, it was clearly very important to her boss.

Thomas leaned back in his chair. “We must keep on chipping away,” he declared.

We?

“I’ll need you to get him to talk to you again, Jade. And work on changing his mind.”

What?

“I know this is highly unusual,” Thomas said. “But I really need your help.”

“Sir, after today I doubt he’d want to see or hear from me again.”

“Oh, but you must try. You’re the first person who’s gotten him to pay attention to something from me. And at your first attempt too!”

Jade didn’t know what to say.

“You have no idea how important this is to me, Jade,” Thomas said quietly. “It’s an order.”

She sighed. How could she say no when he put it like that? Besides, she’d be lying to herself if she didn’t admit that Lucas Renner intrigued her. She wouldn’t mind knowing more about him.

“I can only try, Mr. Bilton,” she answered. “I can’t promise you the results you want.”

“And that’s all I expect,” Thomas replied, beaming at her. “There are things I need to sort out regarding this, and they’re taking more time than expected. I’ll let you know when I need you to make contact with Lucas again.”

“Um, sir, I know you said this is a personal matter. But since I’ll be working with you on this, would you mind telling me what this is all about?”

Thomas considered for a moment. “I guess that’s a fair request. When I have the information I’m waiting for, we’ll talk about it, okay?”

Jade nodded. “Thank you, sir.”

“Well, that’s it for now. And thank you again, Jade.”

“You’re welcome, Mr. Bilton.”

Jade walked back to her desk, curiosity tickling her hard. Thomas hadn’t mentioned a time frame for their conversation, but she’d have to settle for a promise.

*****

Jade entered the apartment she shared with one of her best friends. She lifted her eyebrows when she found Cassie Stephens looking glum as she sat in front of the TV, eating a bar of chocolate.

“Hey, Cassie, what’s wrong?” she asked.

“My boss is a prick,” Cassie said. “Someone resigned today, and he announced that he won’t be looking for a replacement. He expects the rest of us to share the work, but we’re already overloaded as it is!”

“I keep telling you to look for another job.”

“I’m still waiting for you and Lexie to recommend me for a role at Bilton Machineries,” Cassie said with a grin.

Jade chuckled. “Don’t worry. We’re keeping an eye open for you.”

“How was your day?”

“Weird!” Jade sat down to tell her friend about the meeting with Lucas and her conversation with her boss.

“Wow. Sounds very intriguing.”

“I know. The best—or worst—part, I’m not sure which yet, was that Lucas Renner is a total hunk.”

Cassie lifted an eyebrow. “You met someone today who you think is a total hunk?”

“I looked up at the ceiling as if it were the most interesting thing in the world when he caught me staring at him.”

Cassie gasped. “You know what this means. You are so interested, Jade Tully.”

“Yay. Glad to know my heart hasn’t permanently turned to stone after all,” she said dryly.

“Yes. Yay,” Cassie said, looking pointedly at her. “It’s okay to give your heart a rest after it’s been hurt. But it’s been too long since you’ve taken a risk in the relationship department, Jade. That’s why I think it’s exciting that this Lucas guy had a strong effect on you.”

“But don’t you think it would be totally unprofessional if I flirted with him? Besides, considering his obvious issue with my boss, I doubt he’d even want to be in the same room as me again.”

“But didn’t Thomas say he wants you to keep working on him? Use your charm and see how effective it is,” Cassie teased.

“Ha-ha. I don’t think my feminine powers would have any effect on him. He’s too good-looking,” she said with a pout.

“Ah, you are most definitely interested.”

“You should have seen him, Cassie. You’d know what I mean. But then again, I think I’ll keep him to myself.”

“Now you’re really making me curious about this guy. Maybe the next time you have to meet with him, I could lurk in the background.”

Jade sighed. “Then he’ll see you and fall for you. And there goes another guy stolen from me by a so-called friend.”

“Excuse me. How dare you think I’m like that woman you used to call friend?” Cassie said, giving her a censuring push. “But… if this Lucas Renner is as hot as you say he is…”

They chortled.

“Glad you’re able to laugh at that joke, Jade,” Cassie said quietly.

“Yeah. I guess I’m really ready to move on now,” she said with a grin, Lucas Renner’s handsome face floating in her mind.

*****

“Jade, I know it’s late in the day but I need you to do something for me before you leave for home,” Thomas said over the phone.

“Sure, Mr. Bilton,” Jade answered.

“My wife’s niece just had a baby girl. We’ll be visiting her in the hospital tonight, and Diana and I want to bring a big bunch of flowers and some gifts for the newborn. Could you get them, please?”

“Of course,” she answered. “Do you have a particular gift in mind?”

“Diana’s niece had hinted that a bracelet engraved with her child’s name would be nice, along with some clothes and toys. You can get the bracelet from our favourite jewellers.” Thomas gave her the name of an exclusive store.

“What’s the budget, sir?” she asked.

Thomas told her.

Jade gulped. Her most expensive necklace was less than half the price of the bracelet Thomas wanted her to buy.

*

Jade walked towards a flower shop two blocks away, carrying a large shopping bag full of baby stuff. The expensive bracelet she’d just bought was safe in her handbag.

Ruby, the florist, would be surprised to see her back again so soon. She’d been there just last week.

Since her nephew had been diagnosed with a heart condition, Jade had been buying flowers every two weeks for her brother and sister-in-law. At first, Jerry had asked her not to waste money on things that wilted and got thrown away after several days. But the lovely blossoms cheered his wife so much that sometimes Jerry would even remind Jade to pick up a fresh bunch on her way home. Good thing that Ruby had been giving her a good discount for being a frequent customer.

Jade used to buy from a different florist, but when Cassie came home one night with flowers from her workmates for her birthday, Jade had started buying from Ruby. Ruby’s arrangements were much more beautiful and the quality of her flowers was superb. She’d been a regular of Ruby’s now for over four months and had developed a friendship with the older woman. Ruby had been an additional source of comfort when Jade had been so worried about her nephew’s heart surgery.

Jade walked into the inviting flower shop, spotting Ruby with another customer. Her assistant wasn’t around, so Jade put the shopping bag down in a corner and browsed the greeting cards section while she waited. Thomas hadn’t asked her to buy a card, but she’d get one anyway. There were several cute ones for welcoming a new baby girl into the world.

“What are you doing here?” a low growl came from behind her, making her jump and whirl in surprise.

“Lucas!”

Lucas glared at her, looking more pissed off than he’d been when he’d left her at the café yesterday.

“So?” he whispered harshly, his handsome face marred by a deep scowl.

“Um… I’m here to… buy some flowers.” She gave herself a mental shake to get back her composure.

“I don’t believe you,” Lucas said in a soft but angry tone. “Please leave now.”

“What? No! I told you I need to buy some flowers,” she whispered heatedly, annoyance replacing her earlier fluster. How dare this guy order her about?

“Come with me,” Lucas said, grabbing her arm and steering her to the exit.

She resisted, frowning at him. What the hell was wrong with this man?

Cheery goodbyes came from Ruby and her customer, then Ruby appeared from around the corner.

“Jade! Hello. I thought it was you,” Ruby greeted, looking at her and Lucas with curiosity.

“Hi, Ruby,” Jade said, walking away from Lucas with relief. “I need a big bouquet for someone who’s just had a baby girl.”

“Sure,” Ruby said as she lifted her eyebrows at Lucas. “You two know each other?”

“Yes,” Lucas answered, smiling at Ruby. “Jade’s a friend of a friend. Anyway, Mum, there’s something I need to talk to her about first. Excuse us for a while.”

Mum? The revelation disconcerted Jade enough that she let Lucas lead her outside.

Lucas faced her when they were far enough away from the entrance to Ruby’s shop. “Thomas sent you here, didn’t he?” he asked. “What’s your assignment this time? To get my mother to talk to him?”

“No!”

“Don’t lie, Jade.”

Jade gasped indignantly. “I am buying flowers for Mr. Bilton, but he did not send me here. For your information, I was Ruby’s customer way before I started working at Bilton Machineries. And I had absolutely no idea she’s your mother, because in the four months that I’ve been coming here every other week, I’ve never seen you around. So please don’t accuse me of a hidden agenda.”

Lucas narrowed his eyes, but she held her head high and glared back at him. She might find him attractive enough to get muddled every once in a while, but she refused to get intimidated by this infuriating male—even though her lashes were batting involuntarily despite her anger.

Argh! Damn him for being so good-looking.

The suspicious look in Lucas’ eyes disappeared and his lips curved upwards.

Shit. Jade Tully, you’re so freaking obvious.

“I’m sorry,” Lucas said.

Her brows rose.

“You really didn’t come here to talk to my mum about Thomas?” Lucas asked.

“No.”

“And you didn’t know she’s my mother?”

“No. How could I have known that, Lucas?”

“Does she know you work for Bilton Machineries?”

She shook her head. “I only just started, so we haven’t had the chance to talk about it yet. I’m sure she’ll ask where I work now, though. She knew I was looking for a new job.”

“Please don’t tell her.”

“Why not?”

Lucas rubbed his face. “It’s a long story, Jade. And it’s private.”

“In other words, it’s none of my business,” she said.

Lucas gave her a tight smile that held sadness she was surprised to see. It pricked her conscience and, unthinking, she squeezed his arm in a gesture of comfort.

Whoa. Muscles.

She pulled away, cursing herself for being too touchy-feely towards a man she hardly knew.

“Lucas, I see your mum every two weeks,” she said hurriedly. “Unless there’s a long line of customers waiting, we usually have a friendly chat. What should I tell her if she asks me?”

“Anything, as long as you don’t say you work for Bilton Machineries. It would upset her if she finds out that Thomas is trying to contact me. Please.”

There was no sarcasm on Lucas’ tone, only a soft plea. She had lots of questions for him and opened her mouth to ask one. But she shut it and nodded instead. Judging from Lucas’ stance, Thomas would be more forthcoming with details. She’d have to wait.

“Thank you, Jade. I appreciate this. Let’s go back in.” Lucas motioned for her to go first.

She headed back to the flower shop, trying to get a fake story clear in her head. She didn’t look forward to dishing out fibs to Ruby, but she couldn’t find a good enough reason to argue with Lucas’ request. Her gut told her it was the way to go for now.

She only hoped she could be convincing. Her expressions and gestures often gave her away even if her words didn’t.

###End of Chapter Two###

I can’t wait until the book goes live on the 17th!  Hope you’re looking forward to it as much as I am :)

Till next time, take care.

Much love,
Miranda xxx

Pre-order for this book is now available from Amazon and Kobo. Coming soon in other stores.