August 8 is almost upon us, when Again (Time for Love Book 3) is released! That's only a handful of days to go before you're able to read about Connor and Amanda's love story 🙂 .
As promised, here's chapter one to get you started. Enjoy!
This excerpt contains adult material. It is intended for readers 18 years of age or older.
AGAIN: CHAPTER ONE
Of all people!
Amanda Payne kept her features expressionless as she steeled herself for bumping into Connor Reid. She’d successfully distanced herself from him last night and all through the earlier part of today, but it seemed her luck had run out. There he was, making his way to the elegant front entrance of Magda’s Place, just as she was about to exit the boutique hotel.
She quickened her steps, keeping her eyes trained to the ground. If she pretended she hadn’t noticed him approaching, maybe—
Darn. So much for hoping he’d ignore her.
“Hi, Connor,” she said, injecting as much friendliness in her tone as she could muster. But she sounded fake even to her own ears. She couldn’t help it. Even though Connor Reid was as incredibly hunky as she remembered him to be, her sense of pride still stirred the pot of humiliation that had brewed during their encounter in Melbourne last month.
“What time are you guys heading back to Sydney?” Connor asked conversationally.
“Soon,” she answered, not wanting to encourage further chit-chat.
Much as she preferred to simply wave goodbye and walk away, she didn’t want to be rude. This man was a very good friend of the Carmichaels. And she was a very grateful, non-paying guest at the Carmichael-owned luxury country hotel in the Hunter Valley—now one of her favourite places in Australia.
Last night, they’d celebrated the engagement of her best friend Rebecca Andrews and the birthday of her other best friend Sarah Daley at the hotel’s restaurant. While some guests had already gone home a few hours ago, Amanda and several others were still there enjoying the hotel’s facilities.
Amanda suppressed a sigh. With two of her friends romantically involved with Carmichaels—Rebecca being engaged to Zach and Sarah going out with Jeff, she was bound to cross paths with Connor a lot in the future.
An unwelcome flash of excitement went through her but she quickly squashed it, annoyed at that part of her that was still attracted to the man.
“Where are you off to now?” Connor asked.
“I’m looking for Ash to see if he’s ready to go home.”
“Oh, I saw him heading that way with a few people,” Connor said, gesturing to his left where the vineyards were. “I think your brother’s still having a good time and not quite ready to leave.”
“Thanks. I think I’ll join them.” She gave him a small smile and started to walk away.
“Amanda,” Connor called, halting her.
“Can we talk?”
“About what?” she asked nonchalantly, heart beating faster.
“Come on. You already know. We have to clear the air. We’ve been avoiding each other since last night—”
Connor paused just as Amanda noticed Connor’s parents exiting the hotel. It was a good thing he’d stopped. The last thing Amanda wanted was for someone to overhear their conversation, least of all his folks.
“Hello,” Connor’s mother called out with a wide smile for them both. Jean Reid was a lovely woman, and her nurturing vibe alone could put anyone at ease. Amanda smiled back at her with equal warmth.
“Connor, I was telling Mama Mags that we should have an early dinner at our place for everyone who’s not in a hurry to drive back to Sydney. It’ll be informal so nobody has to dress up to the nines,” Jean said to her son.
Amanda couldn’t help but smile at the nickname Jean had for Magda Carmichael—Zach and Jeff’s fun-loving grandmother. Connor himself called the elderly woman ‘Granny Mags’, although as far as Amanda knew, the Reids and the Carmichaels were not blood related. They were, however, long-time friends and neighbours, with the Reids owning the property next door to the Carmichaels’ Hunter Valley vineyards.
“Sure. Sounds good, Mum,” Connor replied.
“What do you think, Amanda?”
“Oh, yes, sounds great, Jean,” Amanda said, surprised that her opinion on the matter was asked. The idea did excite her. She had wondered which property was the Reids’ and whether they grew anything on their land.
The fact that she had had an impromptu one-night stand with Connor didn’t mean she knew anything about him or his family. When they parted ways in Melbourne last month, she had been certain she’d never lay eyes on him ever again. To say that she was shocked to see him at her best friends’ party last night was an understatement.
“Okay, good,” Jean said with a pleased grin. “Would you two mind spreading the word to your friends and doing a head count of those who could come? No need to ask the oldies. I’ve already informed them. Then could you call me with the numbers, Connor? We’ll head off now and get everything ready. Give me until around six to prepare and you can all turn up.”
“Make sure you let us know in about ten minutes how many people are coming, Connor,” his dad, Charlie, said as he escorted his wife to their car, which had been brought around by a valet. “You know how your mother gets when she thinks no one’s turning up for her party.”
“Oh, I know they’ll turn up,” Jean said to her husband.
“Well, you don’t know that,” Charlie said teasingly. “Maybe they all want to just head back to Sydney so they could have an early night—”
Amanda couldn’t hear the rest of conversation when the couple got inside the vehicle, but the smile remained on her face. It was nice to see two people who’d been married for many years still enjoy teasing each other.
Her gaze went back to the man in front of her and her breathing shallowed. Damned Connor Reid. His light brown eyes were staring at her with an intensity that made her squirm—deliciously, if she cared to admit it. Well, there was no denying that Connor was a very attractive man. She wouldn’t have gone temporarily crazy during that surreal night if he weren’t so utterly good-looking… and charming…
Connor’s eyes narrowed, his lips tugging up in one corner, before he reverted to an impassive face. “I’ll head to the vineyards and tell the guys who are there about Mum’s invitation. Could you let your friends know?” he asked before turning to leave.
Amanda’s mouth dropped open as she watched Connor walk away. What the hell was that smirk about? Did he think she was affected by his stare? Hrmph! He had some nerve!
“Connor!” she called out.
Connor stopped and turned. “Yes?”
“I thought you wanted to clear the air.”
“Yeah, but I don’t think this is the right time now?” Connor asked.
“Well, I don’t think there’s a need for a long conversation.” She gulped, nerves attacking suddenly. “Our, err, experience last month didn’t end well. But since it’s not gonna happen again, ever, I think the best thing is for us to put it behind us and be friendly with each other.”
Connor stared at her for long seconds. It was unnerving, but she tried to hold his gaze.
“Does that mean we won’t be talking about it at all in the future?” he finally asked.
“Could you see a point?”
Connor threw his hands in the air, seemingly frustrated. “How does that fix anything? Why don’t you want to talk about this?”
She shook her head, folding her arms across her chest. “What is there to fix, Connor? We had sex, I misunderstood your intentions, you misunderstood mine… What is there to fix, apart from accepting that we misunderstood each other?”
Connor raked his hair. “Fine. If that’s what you want, so be it.” Then he turned and walked away.
Amanda stared at Connor’s retreating back. Great. Mission accomplished. He’d agreed with her to not talk about what had happened between them, albeit grudgingly. Hopefully, she could now stop thinking about it.
Yeah, right, a sarcastic voice inside her head said.
“Oh, shut up,” she muttered under her breath.
She went back inside the hotel, her mind whirling. She loathed to admit it, but that fateful weekend with Connor still affected her big time. How could such an incredible night turn into a humiliating nightmare the very next day? Incredibly, her memory was still crystal clear on most of the details and she couldn’t help it when they replayed in her head…
Amanda watched—embarrassed, mortified and fascinated all at once—as her cousin Lori flirted with a couple of guys. Lori had shamelessly knocked on the door of a private function room in one of Melbourne’s hotels, and was rewarded with two handsome men opening it for her.
Lori was a natural flirt, and no guy could deny her when she turned on her charm full blast. Tonight was no exception. They were now being herded into the room to join in the celebrations for someone they didn’t even know. Lori had been successful in getting their all-girl group into some party that was full of hot, hunky men.
Amanda looked around in trepidation as she followed the other girls inside. Yes, Lori sure knew how to pick a party to crash. The room was swimming in testosterone with only a handful of females among the thirty or so males that were there. Formula One banners and posters decorated the room, and Amanda guessed this was a party connected to the Melbourne Grand Prix that was held the day before.
She’d been lucky enough to attend the exciting race. Ash had taken her with him and had even paid for her airfare. She was surprised that her brother’s girlfriend had chosen not to go with them, but Amanda wasn’t complaining. She had a ball, and it had been great to have some quality time with her only sibling. And since she was only in Melbourne on rare occasions, she’d accepted Lori’s offer to go with her and her friends on a night out in town. Her cousin had been insistent, saying she should experience what it was like to really have fun before deciding on a permanent relationship.
She shook her head at herself. Whatever had possessed her to tell Lori about her New Year's resolution with her best friends to make time for love this year?
Envy needled Amanda as she watched the other women effortlessly chat with good-looking strangers. Geez, those girls really knew how to angle their bodies for sexy poses. They certainly looked invitingly sultry. No wonder it had been quite easy to get in. Seven attractive females dressed in sexy clothes and high heels were clearly welcomed, judging by the instant interest thrown at them by the men in the room.
‘Sexy’ wasn’t something Amanda associated with herself, though. Not that she believed she was bad-looking—it wasn’t the physical appearance. She just didn’t think she had that undefinable magnetism women like Lori seemed to have. If she knew how to get it for herself, she would. Unfortunately, it seemed that one either had it or didn’t. She didn’t.
Her best friends, of course, insisted she was attractive. They said it was only her own lack of self-belief that was letting her down. Even her own brother gave her a tip—that confidence made women look hot to a lot of men.
Well, she was a highly confident gal, but only when it came to her career. She didn’t get to be a senior financial advisor for a well-respected financial planning company if she didn’t have the necessary brains and smarts.
But when it came to men and relationships? Pfft.
Past experiences had erased whatever natural confidence she’d possessed in that area. The actions of her ex-boyfriends—the last one in particular—had convinced her that she was quite easily pushed aside in favour of women who had ‘it’.
Tonight, that was being reinforced for her. Lori and her friends were fitting in at this party like they were the VIPs the men had been waiting for. And here she was, mumbling polite hellos to hot males whose eyes quickly left her to rove the more skimpily dressed women.
Damn. She should have brought a sexier dress with her on this weekend trip. But she hadn’t anticipated joining her cousin and her friends in their girls’ night out. Lori had practically dragged her out of her hotel room, and she was forced to put on the only suitable outfit she could find.
Maybe she should leave. She was sure no one would notice if she disappeared.
“Hi,” a deep voice said behind her.
Amanda swivelled and her gaze collided with that of a smiling tall and utterly handsome stranger.
“I’m Connor,” Mr. Tall-and-Utterly-Handsome said, holding out a hand to her.
“Hi, Connor. Pleased to meet you. I’m Amanda,” she responded, giving him a confident, no-nonsense handshake. Thankfully, her Miss Professional persona had decided to come to her rescue. Miss Professional was used to meeting all types of people, and could handle herself with poise and grace. She’d let Miss Professional run this show.
“Thanks for coming and making my party more interesting,” Connor said.
“Oh, this is your party?”
“Yeah. Most of us here work for that Formula One team,” Connor explained, pointing to the logo of the team that came second in the race yesterday. “Well, I used to, because yesterday was my last day on the job. This is my farewell party.”
“Oh, right. What work did you do?”
“Wow. I watched the race yesterday. It was great.”
“Did you? Where were you sitting?”
Amanda chatted with Connor about the race, grateful for her brother who’d filled her with plenty of trivia about the event. Many minutes later, she was lounging on a couch, relaxed, and laughing out loud at one of Connor’s funny stories.
“Can I get you another drink?” Connor asked.
“Um. Sure,” she said, staring at her empty glass.
“I’ll be back,” he said, getting up.
Geez, she’d lost track of how much alcohol she’d had. Earlier, someone had been walking around, filling up people’s glasses, and she’d just let hers be constantly topped up.
She leaned back on the seat and casually looked around. What she saw made her eyes widen in shock. One of Lori’s friends was sitting on a guy’s lap, and two were dirty dancing with a man. Then she saw Lori, kissing someone so passionately it was almost indecent.
She rolled her eyes. She’d heard about her cousin’s sexcapades—Lori herself had told her about some of them. But she’d always thought Lori had exaggerated. Tonight, she was seeing Lori’s behaviour with her own eyes.
Lori was a great girl who never meant any harm. She was just a playgirl through and through. And it seemed her friends were the same.
A giggling sound to her left caught Amanda’s attention. One of Lori’s newest friends was flirting outrageously with Connor—laughing and touching his arm. She was even playing with the button of Connor’s shirt. Goodness gracious, how forward could some women be? Was this what she had to compete with all the time?
She slumped back on the couch, starting to feel dejected. In the short time she’d known Lori’s friends, she’d found them to be nice, friendly girls. Good on them for knowing how to get the men they wanted.
But she was jealous. She sucked at seduction, and she simply couldn’t compete if that was the name of the game.
“Here you are, beautiful.”
Amanda glanced up in surprise to find that Connor had come back. Giddy relief washed over her, and she accepted her new glass of wine gratefully.
“So where were we?” Connor asked, casually draping an arm on the back of the couch.
“We were right here,” she joked.
Their conversation turned flirtatious. Connor sat a tad closer than before, their knees touching. And gosh, she wanted to lean over and kiss him. When Connor twirled a strand of her hair around his fingers while talking about his favourite café in Paris, she had to force herself to breathe.
Her ease at keeping up with him surprised her, though. It had been a while since she’d flirted with someone, and she had to admit it was doing something to her. She was getting hot. Real hot. Was it the alcohol?
No. She knew it was Connor. She’d never wanted to pash someone so badly in her life.
They were distracted by loud goodbyes coming from one of Connor’s buddies and two of Lori’s friends. The three—who were dirty dancing earlier on—were leaving the room. Together.
Connor snickered as he waved goodbye to the trio.
Amanda blushed. It was obvious what those three planned to do. She glanced at her cousin and found her still kissing the same man. Only this time, it had become a full-on make-out session. Holy crap. They were smoking.
Suddenly, she needed to escape. The atmosphere around them was becoming way too scorching. She was getting so moist it was embarrassing. Truth was, she had no idea how to handle it.
“Connor, I think I’ll head off now,” she said softly, placing her glass on the coffee table.
“Oh, are you sure?” Connor asked, looking and sounding disappointed.
She smiled. It was flattering that this hunk of a man was enjoying her company. “I’m staying in this hotel,” she found herself saying.
Great. Now that she was about to go, her nerves had decided to re-appear. When she was nervy, she was prone to unfiltered blabbing.
“Do you need someone to walk you?” Connor asked teasingly. “Make sure you get there safely?”
“Maybe it’s best,” she said in the same teasing tone, not wanting to appear flustered.
Amanda thought about saying goodbye to Lori, but she didn’t think her cousin would appreciate her interrupting whatever she was doing with that man. So she grabbed her purse and walked out with Connor.
Amanda fumbled for her room key in her purse. She half-hoped that she’d find it missing, just so she didn’t have to say goodbye to Connor yet. Unfortunately, her handbag was small, and the key was easy to find.
She looked up at him with a smile, preparing to thank him for a great night, when her breath caught in her throat. Whoa, if she wasn’t mistaken, that look in Connor’s eyes was… want. He wanted her? She got her confirmation when Connor’s mouth descended on hers, instantly passionate.
All thoughts flew from Amanda’s mind as her body rapidly took over. All she could do was feel—feel the fierce need that erupted inside her like a raging fire on dry tinder. In no time, she was helplessly clinging to Connor, returning his kiss as fervently as he was giving it.
“Key, Amanda,” Connor mumbled against her lips as he groped for the room key in her hand. He opened the door, taking her with him. The next few seconds were a whirl, because the next thing she knew, she was on the bed and Connor was on top of her.
“Amanda,” he breathed, kissing her neck and kneading a breast.
Oh, God, what was she doing? Was a stranger really in her room? And was he really running his thumb on her nipples?
Someone moaned. She did. Lustily.
Connor’s hand was now inching its way up her thigh.
Amanda, do you really want this? a cautious voice in her head asked.
That answer opened the floodgates. Suddenly, she needed to be naked. She needed Connor to be naked. She reached for his shirt buttons, impatiently undoing them with shaking fingers.
A part of her wanted to slow down. To give herself time to think about this. But she was beyond thought. Perhaps the alcohol and the pervasive sexual tension in the party were to blame. Because for the first time, she found herself wanting—no, dying—to have sex with someone she hardly knew.
Her body throbbed with intense desire like it never had before. It was heady, all-consuming, irresistible. And right that moment, only Connor could assuage it.
They undressed each other, hands and mouths everywhere they exposed new skin. When Connor pulled down her undies, she was panting hard, ready to come. Oh Lord, she’d never been this aroused in all her life.
“So wet,” she heard Connor whisper before she felt his tongue on her soaked opening. Her hips bucked on the bed as she cried out his name, a loud moan escaping unbidden when he greedily licked her swollen nub. “Oh God, Connor, please take me now,” she gasped.
Connor groaned, leaving her to grab his jeans and pulling something from the pocket. In a quick moment, he was back, condom in place.
He positioned himself between her legs, kissing her hungrily.
She gasped as she welcomed him, hard and thick inside her. Connor drove in, slowly at first, watching her with his mouth agape and his eyes hooded in lust. She was sure her expression mirrored his.
When he was all in he paused, not moving, just looking into her eyes with… wonder and awe? Or was she just projecting what she was feeling?
“Connor,” she whispered with need, wrapping her legs around him to encourage him to move. It was incredible to be filled and stretched deliciously by him. But it wasn’t enough.
“So good,” he said through gritted teeth before he started to thrust.
Amanda surrendered herself to the sensations of Connor moving in and out of her, lost in the sheer pleasure of it all. All too soon her climax loomed. She wanted to prolong the moment, but it was too late. She came, and came, gasping and trembling underneath Connor who was driving into her with abandon.
“Amanda!” Connor cried as he followed her in ecstasy, grunting his release.
“Enough, Amanda,” she murmured, forcing herself to shut off the replay in her head and return to the here and now. If she didn’t, she’d be further lost in the memory of how Connor had gone to his room to get some more condoms, and how they’d used them all. She’d been so deliciously sore the next day.
Yes, the next day…
That was what she should be remembering—the hurtful low after the incredible high.
A frustrated scream wanted to come out of her, but she forced it back. She still burned from embarrassment and humiliation from the whole damned thing.
### end of chapter one ###
Hope you enjoyed that 😀 .
I'll post chapter two tomorrow.
Again is now available on pre-order from the following stores at a special new release price of $2.99:
It will be available to purchase on Amazon, All Romance Ebooks and Smashwords from August 8.
The special new release price of $2.99 will be in place for three days from release date, then it will go up to its regular price of $3.99.