At Last: Chapter Two

Hope you enjoyed Chapter One of At Last yesterday 🙂  As promised, here's Chapter Two.

At Last Chapter TwoAtLast-200x300

The delightful warmth of the morning sunshine washed over Gemma as she exited the hotel. With a contented smile, she walked over to one of the chaise lounges neatly arranged around the glorious outdoor pool of the resort. As she’d expected, the area was empty. After last night’s party, she wouldn’t be surprised if she was the first person up, apart from staff.

She’d left and gone to bed at around one in the morning, while the Christmas Eve festivities were still in full swing. Her nerves at performing last night must have taken their toll, and now that it was over, she was more relaxed but tired.

The brand new day gave her a burst of energy, though. She always looked forward to getting out and about in this wonderful place every morning, especially when everyone else was still asleep. She’d considered walking to the beach, which was a relaxing fifteen-minute trek through the rainforest from the main hotel. There was a long boardwalk through the trees, which ensured that no one who wanted to venture to the beach and back lost their way. But admittedly, she was yet to fully recover from last night, so lying outdoors by the poolside was good enough for today.

She sat on a comfortable lounge under the protection of a wide outdoor umbrella, waiting for the breakfast she’d ordered. She was tempted to bask in the sunshine, but she’d been too lazy to put sunscreen on this morning. The Australian sun could be harsh, especially during summer, so she’d better stay under a shade if she were to laze there for a long while like she’d planned.

She looked at the magazine in her hand and sighed. She’d found it outside her door that morning, and the headline had immediately grabbed her.

Where are Greg Carmichael and Gemma Aldwyn hiding?

There was a slightly fuzzy picture of her at Sydney’s Domestic Airport, with Greg by her side, talking on his phone. She rolled her eyes. She bet whoever took the photo must have also spotted the other guys with them, including Zach and Jeff. But the paparazzo had chosen to focus the lens only on her and Greg. She supposed concentrating on Greg Carmichael’s new ‘flavour of the month’ was juicier than running another story on Zach and Bec’s wedding, or Jeff and Sarah’s engagement. The readers must be getting bored with the repetition, and the magazines needed something else to garner interest.

She opened the pages and started reading. Guesses were made as to where she and Greg might be enjoying a romantic holiday. She snorted. Romantic, my ass. I wish.

With a shake of her head, she continued on. The article writer was convinced that they were at the Carmichael Sanctuary. After all, it was argued, not only was it tucked away in a secluded area of Serenade Bay, but the place was also notorious for being hard to get into. When someone uninvited or unexpected did succeed in stepping foot inside the gate of the vast property, the round-the-clock security team was quick to escort them out of the premises.

Even though the writer had guessed correctly, Gemma was relieved that they were indeed safe from snoops in this place. Apart from the almost-invisible but highly efficient security team, she’d discovered that the resort staff also helped in keeping the unwanted out of the Sanctuary—and out of Serenade Bay itself.

She’d spoken to a couple of workers who’d said that most of those employed by the Carmichaels were fiercely loyal. They were treated extraordinarily well, so they constantly did their bit to ensure the privacy of the guests. They quietly worked with the Serenade Bay locals—who were happy with the visitors’ patronage and generous tips—to sniff out possible undercover reporters or paparazzi, and report them to the security team. No wonder even billionaires and famous actors from all over the world chose to stay here sometimes.

Gemma got to the part of the article where it was mentioned that the father of one of her students had confirmed that she wasn’t resuming any piano lessons until February. This showed, said the writer, that there must be some truth to the rumour that things were getting serious between Greg and Gemma. Why else would they be having a long holiday together? And, of course, the writer had to include the requisite statement that hundreds of women’s hearts must be breaking at this news.

She snickered loudly. She always closed for lessons from mid-December till mid-February. It coincided with the school holidays, with the addition of a couple more weeks to enable the kids to settle into the back-to-school routine before starting their piano lessons again.

But she was relieved to know that there was nothing too concerning involving her students in the article. Still, she wouldn’t like it if uninvited photographers continued to hover around her studio. Parents of her students would be troubled if their own privacy and that of their kids were threatened.

Her breakfast arrived, brought by Phoebe, a pretty and petite girl in her twenties. Guests were assigned a particular staff member responsible for managing all of their needs while at the resort. Phoebe was hers, and she’d grown to really like the woman in just a handful of days.

“Thanks, Phoebe. And Merry Christmas.”

“Merry Christmas, Miss Aldwyn,” Phoebe answered cheerily. “Is there anything else I can do for you right now?”

“Yes, as a matter of fact, there is. It’s for you to remember to just call me Gemma. Please. I mean it.”

Phoebe smiled. “Sorry, Gemma. Force of habit.”

“It’s funny being called Miss Aldwyn by someone who’s almost the same age as me,” she said with a giggle. “It makes me feel old.”

Phoebe laughed with her. “Mrs. Carmichael said the same thing.”


“No. Mr. Zach’s wife, Rebecca.”

“There you go. Just call all of us by our first names. We’re not into being formal.”

“Neither are the Carmichaels, actually,” Phoebe said. “They say that the only reason they ask us to be formal is for the sake of some of the guests who expect it.”

“They’re great, aren’t they?”

“Yes, they are,” Phoebe answered, eyeing the magazine on Gemma's lap.

Gemma chuckled. “Would you believe the magazines think I’m Greg’s new girlfriend?”

“Uh… you’re not?”

“No,” she answered with a hint of disappointment. “Isn’t it obvious?”

Phoebe shrugged, giving her a polite smile.

“Anyway, I’m single,” Gemma continued. “And I’m supposed to find a guy to kiss by the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve or my best friends will refuse to kiss their men.”

“Really?” Phoebe asked, clearly intrigued.

Gemma sighed, not really minding sharing this with Phoebe. She felt the need to get this particular frustration off her chest. “Yeah. See, last year we made a pact to make the first move on men we like so when New Year’s Eve comes around, we’re with our potential forever-guy. Well, they insist I have time left, so I should try to find myself a guy to kiss. They say it’s for practice, because I actually haven’t asked even one guy out all year.”

“Sounds like a fun arrangement,” Phoebe commented.

“Yeah. In fact, I started the whole thing. But I’m the one who ended up doing nothing,” Gemma lamented.

“Why didn’t you? Ask a guy out, I mean. You’re very pretty. Surely, there were lots of men who would have loved to go out with you.”

“Two reasons. Either I wasn’t interested enough in them, or the ones I was attracted to weren’t commitment material.” Her mind flashed a picture of Greg in her head.

“For what it’s worth, one of the drivers likes you,” Phoebe said with a little laugh.

“Really? Which one?”

“Oh, I can’t tell you which one. He’s too shy to approach you. Besides, he doesn’t want to jeopardise his job. It would be very unprofessional if he did ask you out.”

“Yes,” Gemma agreed, thinking it was better not to go there.

“Anyway, isn’t Mr. Greg still single?”

Gemma couldn’t help the blush that rose to her face. “Unfortunately, he’s not interested in me.”

“Oh, I’m sorry.”

“But don’t tell him we talked about this,” she warned.

“Of course not,” Phoebe said, her eyes wide. “I won’t tell anyone else either. This is just between you and me.”

Gemma smiled her thanks, knowing Phoebe would keep her word. Being discreet about their guests was a non-negotiable requirement for anyone who worked at the Carmichael Sanctuary.

“Good morning, girls!”

They both looked and found Magda making her way to them, followed by a staff member carrying a tray. Gemma grinned, greeting the elderly lady warmly. She should have known Magda would be up earlier than the rest as well.

“May I join you for breakfast, Gemma?” Magda asked.

“Please! That would be lovely,” she answered delightedly.

Phoebe rearranged a chair and a table so Magda could sit close to Gemma.

“Thank you, girls,” Magda murmured, smiling widely at her employees.

Phoebe and her colleague beamed, then excused themselves after checking that neither Magda nor Gemma needed anything else.

“I see you’re reading that magazine,” Magda observed. “I’ve had a look at my copy this morning.”

“I’m glad it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be after Greg told me last night that my students were affected. But I’m still a little concerned,” Gemma admitted.

“Unfortunately, unless we catch them breaking some law, we can’t stop them from hanging around in the public places outside your studio or your apartment.”

“My apartment?” she asked in surprise.

Magda glanced at her sharply. “I’m sorry, dear. I take it Greg hasn’t mentioned that bit yet?”

“No,” she said, her brows creasing.

Magda sighed. “He probably didn’t want you to worry about it since it’s Christmas. I’m sorry. I should have waited.”

“Uh… could you please tell me now?”

Magda took a sip from her teacup before responding. “After we left Sydney, Greg asked one of our security men to go to your apartment building and have a look around. And yes—someone’s been seen acting suspiciously, asking your neighbours if they know where you are. When he was questioned, he said he was just a fan who thinks you’re wonderful.”

“A fan? I’m not even a celebrity,” Gemma said with disbelief. “Was he a reporter or a paparazzo pretending to be a fan?”

“Security doesn’t think so. Apparently, this person was walking around carrying nothing but a stack of magazines with your picture on them. They said he was a little strange.”

Gemma inhaled deeply. She’d just recently moved to her apartment, which was only a couple of blocks away from her studio. She loved her place, and she’d felt safe there. Until now.

“We’ll have to assign a security detail for you.”

She looked at Magda in horror. “Oh no, Magda. That’s… that’s too much.”

“What do you mean?”

“They’re expensive…” she whispered. And seriously, she was a nobody.

Magda smiled mirthlessly. “This is happening to you because of your association with us, Gemma. It’s the least we can do. And it would only be until we’re sure that no one dangerously unstable is stalking you. Unfortunately, past experience has taught us not to take these things lightly.”

“Maybe there’s another way. I’m really quite uncomfortable with the idea of a security detail.”

Magda pursed her lips. “I do have another idea. We’d need to handle this matter delicately, so it wouldn’t blow up in the media. We don’t want to create a whole lot of other mess or additional attention. So it would take some time to make the necessary checks quietly.”

Gemma nodded, wondering where Magda was leading.

“You’re not due to start seeing your students again until mid-February, right?”


“Why don’t you extend your stay here? Have an extra-long holiday and keep me company? Some of my friends are coming in January, staying until the end of February to celebrate my birthday. So I’ll be here for another two months myself. I don’t think you’ll get bored here. There are plenty of activities to do inside the Sanctuary, and the Serenade Bay town centre is just delightful. You could also visit the neighbouring towns. There are various music, art and food festivals happening at this time in the greater vicinity. And you can go shopping at quaint little shops you’ll never see in Sydney.”

Gemma’s mouth dropped open. It sounded like a fantastic, tempting idea. Another month and a half of living in luxury in this paradise would be heaven. But…

“Please don’t even think it’s too much, Gemma,” Magda said, reading her mind. “If you go home we won’t have a choice but to assign a security detail to watch you, which, as you said, would make you more uncomfortable. And yes, I’m trying to twist your arm here to make you say yes.”

Gemma laughed out loud.

“Say yes, please,” Magda cajoled. “It would make me feel better. Otherwise, I’ll keep worrying about you.”

Gemma took a deep breath. “If I stay, could I make it up to you by entertaining your guests? Properly, that is, as if I’m a hired entertainer with set times when I have to perform? I could talk to your activities director and work it out with her.”

Magda sighed, shaking her head with a smile on her face. “All right. If you’re too stubborn to accept this as a relaxing long break, you can be our in-house entertainer, or whatever you want to call yourself.”

“Thank you,” she said with a wide smile. “It’s all settled then. And I’m very excited.”

Generally, Gemma preferred not to have the spotlight on her. It was why she’d chosen piano teaching as a career rather than performing. But she noticed that most of the guests at the Carmichael Sanctuary did enjoy listening to her while she’d practised for her performance last night. This was a way of giving back to Magda and her family for letting her stay in this uber-exclusive resort for almost two months without paying a cent. Just because two of her best friends were now Carmichaels, it didn’t mean Gemma took for granted all the perks she got as a side effect of that close friendship. She was grateful, and entertaining their guests would be but a small token of her appreciation.

“Excellent!” Magda said with a pleased grin. “I’m sure Greg will be relieved by this, too. By the way, he’s staying here with us until February.”

“He is?” she asked, her heart beating faster.

“Yes. You know how this place was already fully booked for the holidays before those lovebirds decided this is where they wanted their engagement party to be held?”

Gemma nodded. “I heard that some famous people got their bookings cancelled to make room for us.”

“Yes. In exchange for the inconvenience, they were offered a stay at any of our resorts for free at any time they choose. Anyway, there were some important business partners of ours who understandably were disappointed that they weren’t spending Christmas and New Year’s here like they’d wanted. We have to make them feel extra special after stuffing up their plans, and we’ve decided that one of my grandsons staying here to personally entertain them and strengthen business ties should do the trick. So Greg will work from here while we have important people around. Fortunately, most of them will be coming in January and February, so that works well. It’s nice to have one of my grandsons stay with me while I’m here, too.”

“Right,” Gemma responded, her breathing shallowing.

Wow. She could stay in this beautiful place until February. With Greg. Yippee!

Oh, shut up, Gemma.

***End of Chapter Two***

Hope you enjoyed that! Not long to go now before you can read the whole book 🙂

I'll send a reminder on January 6 so you can either check your devices for the book if you've pre-ordered, or check out the store links to get your copy before the discount finishes. (Price goes up from US$2.99 to US$3.99 approximately two days after release date.)

By the way, it's also now available for pre-order on Google Play. Here are the pre-order links again:

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

It will be available from January 6 on All Romance Ebooks, Smashwords and Scribd.

Till release day, take care and have fun!

Love, love, love,
Miranda xxx


At Last: Chapter One

Happy New Year! I can't believe it's already 2015. Hope your New Year's Eve celebrations were fabulous 🙂

I was sitting in front of my computer, working on a new book, when a reminder popped up on my screen. With the busyness of the holiday season, I almost forgot that At Last is releasing on January 6! So it's time to share with you chapter one of Gemma and Greg's love story. Here it is.

AtLast-200x300 At Last Chapter One

Ugh! Awkward!

Gemma Aldwyn suppressed her sigh and tried to look as nonchalant as possible while standing in the middle of a crowded dance floor. It was bad enough that it was a ten-year-old kid she’d been dancing with when the MC announced it was midnight, and therefore Christmas Day. Now, everyone was kissing someone—except for her, it seemed.

Here she was without a date in one of the most romantic places she’d ever stayed—the Carmichael Sanctuary, a private, exclusive and luxurious resort in Australia, located in the quiet country town of Serenade Bay on the fringes of a sub-tropical rainforest. Trying not to look out of place, she casually looked around for a person who wasn’t smooching with someone, only for her gaze to land on the one man she’d hoped would at least give her a peck on the cheek—Greg Carmichael, the brother-in-law of two of her best friends.

But just her luck. A pretty supermodel wannabe had caught Greg, and was giving him a very flirty embrace.

Her lips twisted into a rueful curve at the snarkiness of her thought. Truth was, rather than a supermodel wannabe, that woman happened to be Liana Sanders—the only daughter of Tony Sanders, one of Australia’s wealthiest entrepreneurs. In terms of social status and power, the Sanderses were almost at the same level as the Carmichaels—up there.

With Greg being CFO and co-owner of the Carmichael Corporation, one of the most successful private companies in Australia—whose business interests included property development, ecotourism and wineries—it didn’t surprise Gemma that women from equally influential families would want to snare him. Being a hunk with knee-weakening good looks, Greg had sophisticated and beautiful women flocking to him everywhere he went. With his older brothers, Zach and Jeff, both off the market, the ladies hadn’t been holding back in showing their interest in Greg, the only Carmichael brother left unattached.

Gemma had been quite surprised by the overt flirtation by a couple of the women at tonight’s party. Apart from Liana, there was also Annette, a well-known actress, who’d been vying for Greg’s attention all day. The unfortunate thing was they had plenty of time to fight over Greg. Both women were also staying at the Carmichael Sanctuary until after New Year’s Eve.

Well, Greg looked like he was enjoying Liana’s attention. His hands were even lingering on Liana’s waist as they chatted.

This time, Gemma’s exhale came out loud and gushy. Seriously, she should stop noticing what Greg was doing, what he was drinking, who he was talking to, who he was hugging…

She already knew he wasn’t going to be her New Year’s resolution guy. Even if she’d had a secret crush on him for ages, it didn’t matter.

Greg’s own brothers had a nickname for him—Mr. Commitment-Phobic. Since Gemma was looking for something serious, and all he was into was play, they weren’t a match. Besides, Greg wasn’t interested in her anyway.

It was kind of morale sapping that she was the only one who wasn’t going to accomplish the group New Year’s resolution she’d made with her four best friends. Worse, it had been her idea to make a deal with Rebecca Andrews, Sarah Daley, Amanda Payne and Brenna Ward to make time for love this year. She’d argued—aided by the effects of alcohol—that they should pinky-promise to get off their butts and be pro-active in finding themselves their true loves.

Each of them had been pretty poor in initiating dates with men, holding on to some past hurts that had made them reticent about going into relationships that didn’t guarantee their heart’s safety. What better way to break the shackles of fear and self-doubt than by making a pact that all of them had to fulfil?

Well, Rebecca had recently married Zach Carmichael, and Brenna was just proposed to earlier tonight by Amanda’s brother, Ash Payne. And the reason why they were here at the Carmichael Sanctuary for two weeks was not only to celebrate Christmas and New Year’s Eve, but to also have a joint celebration of Sarah’s engagement to Jeff Carmichael, and Amanda’s engagement to Connor Reid—a childhood friend of the Carmichael brothers.

Yes, her best friends of twenty-one years had over-fulfilled their resolution. They were now in permanent relationships. All four of them. And here she was, a bystander in the middle of the dance floor while everyone else seemed to be revelling in the romantic vibe.

Hurriedly, she walked off. Might as well pretend she needed to go to the bathroom. She sniffed, thinking no one was likely to notice—


She stopped to smile at Magda Carmichael, the lovely eighty-year-old grandmother of Greg, Jeff and Zach.

“Merry Christmas, dear,” Magda said, enveloping her in a warm hug.

“Merry Christmas, Magda,” she responded, returning the elderly lady’s embrace with genuine fondness.

“I’ve been meaning to tell you all night that you were absolutely wonderful playing the piano while singing those beautiful songs,” Magda said. “I knew you’re a piano teacher, but I didn’t realise you’re that great a talent!”

Gemma blushed. She was stoked that people had enjoyed her performance just after dinner—her gift to Ash and Brenna for getting engaged tonight. “I hope my nerves didn’t show,” she said with a laugh.

“Were you nervous?” Magda asked with surprise. “You didn’t seem like it to me. You looked like you were in your element, sitting in front of the grand piano, singing those moving love songs.”

Gemma chuckled. “I most certainly was nervous, Magda. There are plenty of VIPs here. I’ve never performed in front of a bunch of…” She let the sentence trail off, choosing not to voice out the words wealthy and famous people. The woman in front of her was one of them—not to mention powerful and influential. As the matriarch of the Carmichael family, Magda had had her fair share of being on the cover of magazines.

But Gemma was comfortable with Magda. At first she’d been intimidated by her. But not for long. Magda had treated her like family by virtue of her being one of Rebecca and Sarah’s ‘sisters-by-choice’.

“Well, everyone I’ve spoken to thought you were amazing,” Magda said. “In fact, more than one of them commented that they enjoyed listening to you while you were practising in the piano lounge for the past couple of days. I’m sure you’ve noticed them sitting around, sipping drinks, while you played.”

“Yes, I did,” she said shyly. She gave Magda a goodbye hug and headed for the bathroom, feeling much better. But before she could leave the ballroom, someone else called out for her.

“Hey, Gem!”

Gemma halted, her heart pounding as she smiled up at Greg.

“Merry Christmas,” Greg said, kissing her on the cheek.

“Merry Christmas,” she said breathlessly, unable to help but be thrilled that Greg seemed to have sought her out, since she was already away from the crowd.

“You were great tonight. Everyone loved you.”


“Needless to say, a few people have asked me if there was any truth to the rumour that we’re together,” he said with a grin.

She rolled her eyes with mock frustration even as she blushed. “What? The rich and famous read gossip magazines too, do they?” she asked jokingly.

Greg snickered. “They’re just as nosy as everyone else.”

Since the day she’d walked down the aisle with Greg—as his partner bridesmaid during Zach and Rebecca’s wedding—paparazzi shots of the two of them had made it to the magazines. Of course, speculations abounded that she was Greg’s new flame. It couldn’t be further from the truth.

“So you’ve set the record straight, I take it,” she said lightly.

“Yeah,” he said, his smile disappearing. “But there’s a new article that came out yesterday.”

“About us again?” she asked in consternation. She’d already had a paparazzo or two hassle her a couple of times. Plus there was the scary middle-aged lady who’d accosted her on the street, insisting her daughter was Greg’s one true love.

“Yes. Unfortunately, there’s something about us again.”

She shook her head. “I really don’t get this. Apart from being together at Zach and Bec’s wedding, where we had to be arm-in-arm, we’ve done nothing to make them think we’re a couple. Why do they keep making things up?”

“You know how they work.”

She nodded, giving him a sympathetic smile. If all this media attention was intrusive for her, it was much, much more so for Greg and his family. Since the horrific tragedy three years ago, when their parents and grandfather died in a freak light-plane accident, interest in the Carmichael brothers hadn’t let up to this day. The media, who’d left them well alone before that, had suddenly become interested in all aspects of their lives. Most had been respectful during those first few months. But as time went by, the gossip rags realised they sold magazines like hotcakes when photos of the good-looking—not to mention fabulously wealthy—Carmichael brothers appeared on their covers. Now, the brothers constantly found themselves in an unwanted limelight.

“Have you seen the article?” she asked. “What’s it about?”

Greg sighed, running his hand through his short, dark hair, his blue eyes betraying his worry. “Apparently, it involved your clients,” he said reluctantly.

She stared at him. “What do you mean?”

“I asked someone to grab me some copies. We’ll find out tomorrow, although I’m sure you can Google it already.”

“Okay, but what did you hear? What about my clients? They’re just kids!”

“Well, from what I was told, a certain shutterbug has been hanging around outside of your studio. A father of one of your students noticed him looking through the windows when he happened to pass by, and asked the photographer who he was and what he was doing. Then the paparazzo asked the father questions about what he knows about you and me. And apparently, we were on the cover again, showing us at Sydney airport just before we flew out to come here. Funny how there was no mention of the other guys, because we were in a big group.”

“Oh, no,” she said. “Some parents, I’m sure, would welcome the attention. But most would hate being dragged into this ridiculousness, especially if it means their kids might be harassed.”

“I know,” Greg said. “Don’t worry. We’ll sort it out. Try not to let it worry you, especially since we’re supposed to be celebrating and relaxing for the next couple of weeks.”

She made a face. “Okay.”

Greg gave her a stern look. “Convince me you mean that.”

She chuckled. “Okay,” she said in a stronger voice.

“Good,” Greg said, giving her a dazzling smile that made her want to gape at him till the sun rose—in five to six hours’ time.

She excused herself to go to the ladies’ before she made a proper fool of herself. If only those rumours about her and Greg were true, she’d probably welcome the attention with open arms. But they weren’t. And now that her students might be affected, it wasn’t funny anymore.


Greg stared at Gemma as she walked away from him. He couldn’t help but admire how her dress showed off her stunning body. She’d always been lovely, but she was particularly beautiful tonight.

There was no denying the strong attraction he had for Gemma. It had been bothering him for some time now. But he’d been doing his best to fight and hide it.

It wouldn’t be fair to Gemma if he acted on his physical urges, as she wasn’t the casual-dating kind of girl. And that was all he was into—casual. After the personal promise he’d made three years ago to be more considerate of women’s feelings, he’d been conscious of not leading anyone on.

He took a sharp intake of breath as he remembered his last-ever discussion with his parents.

~ ~ ~

“You weren’t there for the board meeting again, Gregory,” his dad said. “If you’re going to be one of the heads of this company in the future, you have to start taking your company responsibilities seriously. Or I won’t have a choice but to cut you out of it!”

Greg smirked, knowing his dad would do no such thing. He’d been threatened with that many times in the past, and he still got invited to high-level meetings. Besides, he might not be there all the time, but he was brilliant at what he did.

“You have to grow up, Greg,” his mother said angrily. “We didn’t raise you like this. I especially resent the fact that you include my friends’ daughters in your shenanigans! Don’t you care about Glenda’s feelings? You made her hope, then you dropped her three days later!”

“She knew what she was getting into, Mum,” he retorted.

“You’re so inconsiderate of women’s feelings, Greg,” his mum accused. “All you care about is satisfying yourself.”

“Look, I have to go,” he said.

“This conversation is not finished, Gregory,” his dad called out.

“No time,” he responded, leaving his dad’s office. He was only twenty-six. He had no plans of being roped into the boring, responsible life too early.

What he was looking forward to was meeting with his cousin Rick for some fun with a few girls they’d met at a club the other night.

~ ~ ~

Greg shook his head to bring him back to the present. It hurt to remember that afternoon. Because the next day, his parents were gone.

He took a deep breath to settle his emotions. Once again, he was hit by the realisation that he’d never get the chance to make them proud of him. That opportunity was lost forever.

He didn’t know whether to believe in life after death, but a big part of him still hoped that somehow, his parents and grandfather could see that he’d made a turnaround. He still hoped that they knew of the promise he’d made to his brothers and grandmother to be completely dedicated to ensuring that the Carmichael Corporation, the company created by his grandfather out of nothing, would flourish and continue to grow in leaps and bounds. He didn’t know of any better way to honour the loved ones they’d lost unexpectedly.

He’d kept his promise every day, working as hard as he possibly could. Knowing that he was now contributing to the company as equally as Zach and Jeff had alleviated some of his guilt.

And though his mother was no longer around to see it, he’d changed his attitude towards women. While he’d never intentionally set out to hurt anyone in the past, he’d been an inconsiderate, immature idiot who’d seduced anyone he was attracted to. He’d reasoned that since the ladies were very much aware of his reputation, they must have known what they were getting into by being with him. Looking back, it appalled him how many girls he’d sweet-talked insincerely to satisfy his wants. He never wanted to be that kind of guy again.

However, he was still very much into the single life. It was simply a fact he couldn’t change. He’d come to believe that a serious relationship just wasn’t meant for him. Not at this point in time, anyway.

The difference was that he was now completely honest with girls about what he wanted—fun flings only, and nothing more. If they were looking for commitment, he stayed away from them, even if the physical attraction was great.

His grandmother had surmised that the reason love had never captured his heart was because he had too many choices—too many women who were throwing themselves at him. Well, that was true. Especially now that Zach and Jeff were most definitely taken, the interested ladies seemed to have become bolder and more aggressive in getting his attention. So even though he’d become very picky, he didn’t lack for female company whenever he wanted some.

He was surprised by the number of women out there who were happy with a short fling. Their reasons were varied, although two motivations had been the most common. Either they wanted the experience of ‘dating’ a rich guy for a few days, or they intended to use his name to further their personal interests. He didn’t mind those motives. He was comfortable with that kind of give and take, as long as they were honest about it from the beginning.

Admittedly, it wasn’t all roses for him in the dating game. There had been a few ladies who truly lit his fire. But since they were genuinely the kind who equated sex with emotions, he’d had to keep his paws off of them. He knew he was bound to lose interest after about a month or so. That cycle had been pretty consistent for him. So he’d rather avoid them than break their hearts later.


“Hey,” he said, smiling at Annette, the actress sister of one of Jeff’s friends.

“You promised me another dance, handsome,” Annette purred, running her hand on his chest.

“I did, too,” he agreed amiably, leading her to the dance floor.

Now, here was a woman who’d happily climb into his bed on his terms. Actually, he was trying to choose between Annette and Liana, another guest, to be his fling while he was at the Sanctuary. Both girls had made it clear they were happy with no-strings fun if that was all he was offering. He knew and they knew that being associated with him, even for just a short while, could do wonders for their respective careers.

Both women were very pretty and sexy, but neither held a strong enough attraction for him to easily make a decision. Unfortunately, while he was at the Carmichael Sanctuary, his choices were limited.

He held Annette close, trying to read his body’s reaction to her.

Meh. Nothing to get excited about.

His gaze strayed to the big double doors and his breath hitched, his heart beating faster. Gemma had just walked back into the ballroom.

Ah, damn it. Why her? He couldn’t do anything with her. He shouldn’t do anything with her.

***End of Chapter One***

Chapter Two will be ready for you tomorrow!

You can pre-order At Last at a discounted pre-order price of US$2.99 from the following stores:
Amazon US | Other Amazon Stores | Apple | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

It will also be available from January 6 on Google Play, All Romance Ebooks, Smashwords and Scribd. (The discounted price will remain for a couple of days after release date to allow those who can't pre-order time to download at the special price.)

Enjoy your day/night!

Much love,
Miranda xoxoxo


ALWAYS: Chapter Two

Hope you enjoyed Chapter One of Always. Without further ado, here's Chapter Two 🙂 .


Brenna smiled at Gemma as her friend fell in step with her.

“So why were you laughing so hard back there?” Gemma asked.

Brenna chuckled. “I don’t know. I think Ash just took me by surprise.”

“It looked like you were enjoying yourself. You were hanging on to him like you didn’t want to let go,” Gemma said in a teasing tone.

Brenna felt heat creep up her face.

Gemma gasped. “Brenna Ward,” she said in a hushed, shocked tone.

“What?” Brenna tried to sound innocent, but she was sure she blushed deeper.

Gemma was still looking at her with round eyes when Sarah left Jeff’s side to join them.

“What’s going on?”

“Nothing,” Brenna answered, gulping involuntarily.

“I made a comment that she looked like she enjoyed being in Ash’s arms, and her answer was this,” Gemma said, gesturing towards Brenna's flushed face.

Sarah frowned in question before understanding dawned, her face registering deep surprise similar to Gemma’s reaction. “Really?”

“Really what?” Brenna asked, her discomfort increasing as the two girls continued to stare at her. “I didn’t want Ash to drop me in the water,” she said weakly.

“Why are you blushing so hard?” Sarah whispered—almost excitedly, Brenna thought.

“No reason,” she answered with a nonchalant shrug, her gaze darting a few metres ahead to land on Ash’s back as he walked with Amanda and the other guys. “Um, did you know Ash is really strong? I mean, muscular. As in hard and… strong.” She gulped again.

“Anyone could tell that just from looking at him,” Gemma said, narrowing her yes at her. “So…?”

“So…” she said with a deep sigh, “I think… I think he’s sexy.”

Gemma and Sarah gasped as one.

“Because he’s, you know, strong… and hunky,” she babbled.

Her friends looked at each other with delight.

“You’ve suspected, haven’t you?” Sarah asked Gemma.

Gemma nodded gleefully. “For a long time.”

“Suspected what?” Brenna asked.

A call from Amanda from up ahead interrupted them. “Hey, girls! Hurry up! We need to discuss what to have for lunch since these guys are of no help. ‘Anything’ is all I can get out of them.”

“We’ll have to talk about this later,” Gemma whispered insistently as they walked faster to catch up with the group.

Brenna nodded. For some reason, her heart thumped hard in anticipation.


“So was the water cold, Bren?”

Brenna glanced sharply at Amanda as they all entered the apartment. Amanda sounded too nonchalant, and hadn’t she already asked her brother the same question?

“Yeah, it was cold. You should make sure Ash gets out of his wet clothes. Fortunately, only my feet got wet, and only because he dipped them in the water,” she answered, a smile forming from the memory.

Amanda laughed in response—a giggle that was suspiciously too high pitched.

Brenna frowned. Did Amanda notice her reaction to Ash, too? Oh no. Had she been too obvious? Had Ash himself noticed?

She needed to know the answers, but first she had to attend to her full bladder. “I need to use the bathroom,” she said, just in time to see Greg go in the one nearest the living room.

“Use any of the others,” Amanda said. “I’ll be in the kitchen to start preparing some lunch.”


Brenna made her way to a corridor leading to the three bedrooms in the sub-penthouse. She walked into one of the guest rooms with an en suite and used the toilet. As she washed her hands, she mulled over her reaction to Ash on the beach.

His playful actions had addled her brain to the extent that she was still thinking about how hunky and attractive he was.

Stop, she said, then tugged her earlobe.

But the memories of being in his arms kept on repeating. And she felt like swooning again.


This was not a simple case of liking a guy and letting him know she was interested. Her close friendship with Ash made it complicated. She could very easily imagine him avoiding her altogether if he knew how she felt and he didn’t feel the same. She wouldn’t want that. She’d never want to lose Ash.

So what should she do?

She shook her head, having no clear answer, and went for the door. As she turned the knob, she checked herself in the mirror for the first time since entering the bathroom. Ugh! Her hair was a mess! She pulled out a tie from her pocket and combed her fingers through her hair, taking her time and ensuring she looked all right with a ponytail. Nah. She looked better with her hair down.

What does it matter, Brenna? she chided herself, rolling her eyes.

She untied her hair just the same and smoothed it with her hands. It would have to do. Ash wasn’t likely to notice anyway.

She turned around to leave the bathroom, then froze.

The door was slightly ajar, and there was a small gap—enough for her to see what was happening in the bedroom. Creeping closer to the gap, she leaned in to have a better look, careful not to touch the door lest it moved and gave her away.

There was Ash, stripping out of his wet clothes, his back to the bathroom door. Fortunately, he wouldn’t be able to tell she was playing Peeping Tom unless he paid attention to the narrow slit she was looking through.

But Ash was facing the built-in wardrobe. And it had mirror sliding doors. So nothing was hidden from her. Nothing.

She couldn’t look away.

Because Ash had taken off his boxer briefs.

And. She. Could. See. Everything.

Holy hell. He was stunning.

Her breathing shallowed as moisture pooled between her legs. She’d seen Ash without a shirt on a few times before, but this was the first she’d seen him fully naked.

Damn it, she was getting hot and bothered. And right now she wanted to lick his…


She shook her head vigorously to stop her lustful thoughts. But her eyes had other ideas. They didn’t want to stop roving Ash’s body. Gosh, he was seriously well hung.

Ash finished wiping himself dry with a towel, then he put on a new shirt—presumably one of Connor’s. The bottom part of his top must have gotten wet too. Then he stepped into a pair of denim jeans. He was going commando! Oh no, how could she face him during lunch knowing that? Without wanting to undo his fly and reach in? Especially when she’d love to see him hard…

Argh! Brenna! Stop it!

She shut her eyes and tried to normalise her breathing, but opened them again when she heard a rustling sound. Ash was stuffing his wet clothes in a plastic bag, and then he left the room.

Exhaling gustily, she turned around and leaned back on the wall. She almost laughed out loud when she caught sight of herself in the mirror. Her mouth was hanging open, her eyes dreamy. Yes, she looked aroused. Oh Lord, what should she do now?


Brenna swallowed her frustration as the conversation among the group got funnier. Not that she wasn’t enjoying herself, but she and the girls hadn’t had the chance to talk in private yet. Connor and Jeff didn’t seem to want to let their fiancées out of their sights, and Amanda and Sarah seemed happy to either sit on their men’s laps, or cuddle with them. It made her envious, of course, and the fact that Ash seemed to be avoiding her since getting back from the beach was starting to upset her.

If Ash had noticed her reaction to him, or had overheard her conversation with the girls earlier, it could be bad news. It could mean he didn’t want to encourage her.

Disappointment zipped through her at the thought. It was so acute she had to get up and escape for a few minutes.

“Coffee or tea, anyone?” she asked. “I’m happy to make them.”

“I’ll help you,” Amanda said, rising from her seat.

“Stay here, Amanda,” Gemma said. “This is your little party. I’ll help Bren.”

The two took everyone’s orders and headed to the kitchen.

“Oh, I’ve got ice cream in the fridge, too!” Amanda called out.

“In that case, I’ll help them scoop,” Sarah said, following Brenna and Gemma.

In the kitchen, Brenna found herself in front of two inquisitive faces.

“So let’s talk about you and Ash, Bren,” Sarah said.

Brenna breathed deeply. “Okay. But have you noticed that he seems to be avoiding even looking at me? Do you think he noticed something and he’s uncomfortable with it because he couldn’t imagine the two of us together?”

“So you’re imagining the two of you together?” Gemma asked, eyes wide.

“Even I am surprised by this, but for the last hour, the idea just keeps playing in my mind,” she said with candour, wondering for the umpteenth time what had gotten into her. She kept her mouth shut about seeing Ash naked, though. That was only for herself, no one else.

Gemma and Sarah glanced at each other.

“What if Ash thinks you see him as a brother, and he’s uncomfortable because he feels something, but thinks you don’t?” Gemma suggested.

Brenna’s eyes grew wide as the possibility hit her square in the chest. “You think he might be interested in me?” she whispered.

“Well, I don’t really know. I’ve suspected for a long time that he might be, but I haven’t really asked him.”

“Yeah, same here,” Sarah murmured.

Brenna’s brows furrowed. “Really?”

“Oh, Bren. You’re the one who always brings up the ‘brother’ thing with Ash. And you never notice his hurt look when you do so,” Sarah said.

“Oh my God,” Brenna said, her hand flying to her mouth. “Since when?”

Sarah sighed. “Well, I first noticed Ash looking at you differently when we were in our late teens. When guys came to hang around with us, he seemed to chase off your admirers first before he dealt with the others. I know he made it out as if it was a protective big-brotherly thing to do, but like I said, somehow it seemed different with you. When you started dating seriously, I thought Ash started spending less time with us.”

“I thought it was because he was busy dating other women himself,” Brenna answered, her heart galloping in her chest.

“I noticed what Sarah noticed, too,” Gemma said. “But you were oblivious to the whole thing, Bren. When you started going out with Darren and gushed about him, telling all of us how in love you were with him, I thought Ash looked crestfallen. I resolved then that I wouldn’t mention my suspicions to anyone—because it might wreck your whole relationship. If you didn’t feel the same, I couldn’t see the point of bringing it up. I thought it would hurt him more.”

Sarah nodded in agreement.

Tears sprung to Brenna’s eyes. “He’s had feelings for me for that long?” And to think it bothered her that she’d been attracted to him for a year. One year compared to ten for him? How could she have been so blind?

“Yes, I think he's had feelings for you for that long,” Gemma said. “But he’s never said anything to me.”

“Same here,” Sarah said.

“But you never spoke about this amongst yourselves?”


She stared at them, sensing a deep stirring in her heart. “Do you think he still has feelings for me now?”

Both Gemma and Sarah shrugged.

“Hey, girls,” Amanda said, appearing in her kitchen. “Is everything okay? You haven’t started anything.”

“Sorry,” Gemma said with a grin, and started opening cupboards.

Brenna stared at Amanda. If Ash had told anyone, he would have told his sister. Should she ask her now?

“Bren? What’s up?” Amanda asked.

Brenna’s gaze darted to Gemma and Sarah, but they’d busied themselves with the tasks at hand.

“It’s to do with Ash, isn’t it?” Amanda said. “What did you guys talk about earlier when he took you to the water’s edge?”

Brenna smiled. “We were joking about how cold the water is and how we don’t have a change of clothes.” Images of Ash stripping in the guest bedroom filled her mind, making her flush again.

“Are you imagining my brother in a wet t-shirt contest?” Amanda joked.

Brenna laughed to cover her embarrassment. “No, I’m imagining him naked.”

Amanda gasped. “Bren! Are you kidding me? Is this what you guys were talking about? Tell me!”

With hushed voices, the three shared with Amanda their earlier conversation.

“There were times when I wanted to throttle you for not noticing, Bren,” Amanda said quietly. “But you were with Darren. Even after you broke up with Darren you still didn’t notice. I’ve felt sorry for my brother for years. But I know he’d hate for me to interfere. Plus, I didn’t know what good it would do to tell you, since you weren’t interested anyway.”

Brenna could only stare at Amanda in shock.

“So what did you talk about at the beach?” Amanda asked with a frown.

The rest of what she and Ash had discussed came crashing back to Brenna. “He asked whether I expected to get serious with Lance,” she said, mortification filling her. “I was so frazzled by being in his arms that I didn’t clarify to him I’m not hung up on Lance at all, although I might have given him that impression.”

“Oh, Bren,” Gemma said with a hint of exasperation. “You told him you’re sticking with Lance?”

“Yes,” she said in a small voice. “I’m now sorry I did.”

“That probably explains why Ash is avoiding even looking at you. He’s dealing with another heartbreak—one you’ve caused.”

“I didn’t mean to hurt him,” she cried in dismay. “Maybe I should pull him aside and tell him I didn’t mean what I said. Sure, I like Lance. He’s nice. But I most definitely do not love him. I don’t even think I’ll ever get to the love stage with Lance at all.”

“But you’re not ready to break up with him, are you?” Amanda asked.

Brenna paused, considering the question and scanning herself for a truthful answer. “You know what? I really don’t mind if I do. Deep inside I know Lance is not the man for me. I also know things between us are starting to fizzle fast. I was just too stubborn to admit I’m heading for another failed relationship—that was why I hadn’t wanted to end it yet. But… I feel differently now.”

“And what are you gonna do with Ash?” Sarah asked.

Her lips tugged upwards, the thought of Ash filling her with warmth. “It would be great if he’s still interested in me, wouldn’t it?”

“Bren,” Amanda said quietly. “Ash is seeing someone at the moment—a woman he met at a birthday party.”

Brenna looked at her friend in alarm. “He’s got a new girlfriend?”

Amanda shrugged. “You know Ash. He dates them, then nothing further happens. To be honest, I think you’re the reason why he hasn’t fallen in love with anyone else.”

Brenna breathed in sharply. “So you don’t think he likes this other woman?”

“I don’t know. It’s too new to tell with this one,” Amanda said before burying her face in her hands. “This is why I’ve kept my nose out of this in the past. It’s so stressful thinking that Ash likes you but you don’t like him back. But what if it’s different with this woman? What if it’s now the reverse and you start liking him but he’s no longer available? I don’t want you getting hurt either, Bren.”

“You think he’s moved on?” Brenna asked, dismayed by the possibility.

“I have no idea. I’m sorry. I really don’t know.”

“I want to find out,” Brenna murmured.

“How? Are you gonna ask him straight out?”

“No. I’d have to be subtle. Our friendship is at stake.”

“Please don’t lead him on, Bren,” Amanda pleaded.

She looked Amanda straight in the eye. “I’d never deliberately hurt Ash, Amanda. You know that.”


As they walked back to the balcony, carrying trays with ice cream and hot drinks, Brenna’s gaze immediately went to Ash. Fondness washed over her as she watched him chat with the guys.

A clear image of her flying to Ash’s arms flashed in her mind. She saw herself holding him tight and telling him she was so sorry she’d made him wait for so long. The picture was so strong it brought tears to her eyes.

In that second, she knew her world had shifted.

“What took you girls so long?” Connor asked.

“You know us. We got busy chatting,” Amanda responded, setting the tray she was carrying on the table. Brenna did likewise, grateful no one was looking at her. She blinked the tears away and took deep breaths to calm herself. Then she sat on a chair next to Ash.

“I’m afraid I’ll have to go soon,” Ash said, checking his watch.

“Why? What else have you got on this afternoon?” Amanda asked.

“I promised someone I’d pick her up from the hospital.”

Her? Brenna’s ears pricked.

“Hospital? Who?” Amanda asked.

“Sophie. This woman I’m seeing. She’s visiting a friend’s kid at the Children’s Hospital.”

“You have a new girlfriend?” Greg asked. “How long have you been going out with her?”

“About three weeks or so.”

“Doesn’t she drive? How did she get to the hospital?” Amanda asked.

“The kid’s parents picked her up, but they’re staying with their son until tonight, so Sophie needs a lift home.”

“Do you like her, Ash? As in really, really like her?” Amanda prodded.

Brenna found herself holding her breath for Ash’s response.

“Would I be going out with her if I didn’t like her?” he replied.

“Yes,” Amanda replied boldly. “You’ve gone out with women before to test if there was something there. Then you got your confirmation that there was nothing.”

“But I haven’t gone out with those girls again, have I?”

“Ooh, it must mean you really like Sophie then, hey?” Jeff said before wincing. “Did you just kick my leg, babe?” he asked Sarah in surprise.

“Sorry, it was an accident,” Sarah said with an innocent smile. “Anyway, Ash, what does this woman do?”

“She runs a hairdressing salon. Don’t worry. I’m sure you’ll all get to meet her someday.”

“Meet her? Whoa, you must be getting serious, bro,” Greg teased.

Ash grinned at Greg, and Brenna’s heart sank. Was that a yes? Was he getting serious with Sophie? No!

“Are you bummed that your baby sister’s going to beat you to the altar?” Greg asked.

Ash laughed. “Not at all. But now that my baby sister’s all grown up and getting married, I can stop worrying about her and start focusing on my own love life.”

Amanda rolled her eyes. “You’re the overprotective brother who insists on poking your nose in my business, Ash.”

“It’s tit for tat and all that, sis. Gemma’s the last one I have to worry about now,” Ash said with an exaggerated sigh.

“Not the last,” Gemma said. “Brenna’s still single too.”

Brenna was surprised at Gemma’s comment, but she was grateful for it. What would Ash say about that?

“She’s got Lance,” Ash said rather cheerily.

Ash’s tone pinched Brenna’s heart. “Not for long,” she murmured, unable to help the distressed frown on her face.

“Is everything okay, Bren?” he asked softly.

He noticed! She gave him a sweet smile, words catching in her throat.

Ash reached over and patted her on the arm. “You’ll be fine, Bren. I know it,” he said, then stood up. “I’m afraid I have to go, guys. I don’t want to be late in picking up Sophie. And Bren, I’m sure you’ll work it out with Lance,” he added with an encouraging smile.

Brenna’s jaw slackened as she watched Ash leave to go to another woman. Hurt gripped her, and she was shocked by the intensity of it. It was almost as if a switch had been flicked. Or rather, as if a dam had been broken. Feelings for Ash she’d been forcefully ignoring were gushing out.

But was she just a tad too late?

***End of Chapter Two***

Hope you enjoyed that 🙂 . The full book will be out on October 22nd, and I hope you're as excited about it as I am.

Love you lots,
Miranda xx

To pre-order Always at the special price of $2.99, click here for the links.

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ALWAYS: Chapter One and Thunderclap

Hi! Here's the promised Chapter One for Always. I'm really excited for you to read this book. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing (and writing about) how Ash and Brenna's romance unfolded. I love these two together. I think you will, too 🙂 .

Could you also scroll to the very end as I have a request at bottom of this post?

But first, here's the beginning of Always.



Ah, to be happy and in love.

Brenna Ward sighed enviously as she watched Amanda Payne, her newly engaged best friend, take a romantic stroll on the sands of Sydney’s Bondi Beach with Connor Reid. On this sunny, early spring day, Connor had just very publicly proposed to Amanda in the middle of Australia’s famous beach. But while Brenna was genuinely happy for the couple, it triggered her discontent over her lacklustre love life.

She walked behind them as they made their way to Connor’s beachfront apartment, and she wondered when the time would come for her. Three of her best friends—Amanda, Sarah Daley and Rebecca Andrews—were now in permanent relationships, over-fulfilling the group New Year’s resolution they’d made last year.

Her gaze wandered over to Sarah, who was a few steps ahead, walking hand in hand with her fiancé, Jeff Carmichael, one of Connor’s childhood friends. Yesterday, Jeff’s older brother, Zach, married Rebecca.

Out of the five best friends, only Brenna and Gemma Aldwyn were yet to fulfil their New Year’s resolution: to make time for love this year so by next New Year’s Eve, they’d each be lip-locking with a potential happily-ever-after guy at the stroke of midnight.

Gemma had come up with the idea, all in the name of being brave enough to make the first move on a guy who interested them, and not letting past hurt get in the way of their future happiness.

Well, it was already September and Brenna was kind of on track with the pact. She was going out with Lance, a nice, soft-spoken and considerate guy who was always prompt for their dates. She was comfortable with him. Problem was, that was all she felt—comfortable. They’d been dating for two months now, and quite honestly, she was starting to feel bored. Although she liked Lance, she wouldn’t really describe her relationship with him as being “rock her world” type. From the beginning it had always been… well… only average. Was it nasty to say she could take it or leave it? Because if she were to be completely honest with herself, that was where she was with Lance.

She’d told herself she should still continue to see him, though. She was not the type to give up on relationships easily. Who knew what could happen if they'd both put in more effort?

She shook her head at herself, acknowledging that while holding on could be considered a good trait, it had its negatives.

Lance was the first man she’d considered a boyfriend since she’d broken up with Darren two years ago. Darren had been her ‘first love’ and they were together for six years. Admittedly, the second half of their relationship was more the on-again, off-again kind, until they'd both finally realised they were wasting their time with each other.

It had been devastating to let go of something she’d invested in for so long. But looking back, she knew she’d stayed with Darren for more or less the same reason she was still with Lance: it had been comfortable and familiar. She felt safe with comfortable and familiar.

Unfortunately, none of the guys she'd gone out with after breaking up with Darren had tickled her heart—not even Lance.

Well, actually, that was a lie. There was one guy who had, and still did. But—


Brenna gave her earlobe a sharp tug in addition to telling herself to stop. It was her ritual to arrest the wayward thought which had been repeatedly sprouting in the last year or so.

Funnily enough, the ritual had always worked. She again managed to push the crazy notion back into the hidden closet in her heart. She simply couldn’t allow herself to entertain the thought that Ash Payne, Amanda’s older brother, could be anything more than her best male friend.

“So, Brenna, are you next to get engaged?” Greg Carmichael asked, pulling her out of her musing.

She raised her eyebrows at Zach and Jeff’s younger brother, who was among the friends invited by Connor to witness his proposal. “Me? What makes you think that?” she asked.

“Well, you took your boyfriend to Zach and Rebecca’s wedding yesterday. I’m assuming you guys must be serious,” Greg said.

She chuckled. “No, no. We’re not serious and I’m far from getting engaged.”

“Well, thank God for that,” Ash muttered.

Brenna hid her sigh. Somewhere along the line, Ash’s overprotectiveness for his sister had extended to all four of Amanda’s best friends.

She’d known Ash since she was eight years old, when she first became close to Amanda. Being five years older, Ash had acted big-brotherly from the beginning.

Now, twenty years later, Ash still had a habit of sticking his nose in the women’s businesses. None of them minded it, though. They were used to it. But lately for Brenna, it had turned bittersweet.

Having no siblings herself, and with parents who had constantly left her in the care of different relatives due to their jobs as political journalists, she’d embraced her best friends’ families as her own. And Ash was the closest thing to a brother she’d ever had. Since she very much valued that relationship, she didn't welcome the growing attraction she felt for him.

Exactly when she’d started crushing on Ash, she couldn’t tell. It had simply crept up on her, getting stronger in the last few months.

“Ashton, are you getting all big-brotherly on me again?” she asked, masking her inner turmoil with a term that reminded her how things really were between her and Ash.

“That man’s not good for you, Bren,” Ash said. “He seems like a cold fish.”

“Hey, that’s harsh, Ash. He’s just shy,” she said, defending Lance. Funny, though, how a big part of her agreed with Ash’s sentiment.

Ash shook his head. “I should dunk you in the ocean to wake you up.”

Brenna snorted. “You wouldn’t dare.”

“I wouldn’t?” he asked ominously.

“No-o,” she said, her earlier confidence evaporating at Ash’s tone.

With fast movements she didn’t expect, Ash lifted her in his arms and headed for the water.

“Ash! Put me down!” she shrieked.

“You know better than to dare me, Brenna Ward.”

“It’s cold, Ash,” she said pleadingly. While it was a sunny day, the early spring weather was still too cool for her to want to go in the water.

“Even better. That would wake you up even more, wouldn’t it?”

“No!” she exclaimed, giggles bubbling out of her.

A gentle wave rolled up to them. “Oh, damn. It is cold,” Ash said as the water hit his legs, followed by a gust of cool sea breeze.

Her body shook as she tried to contain her mirth. Why she was finding this funny, she didn’t know. “See? Put me down,” she demanded.

“Your wish is my command,” Ash said with a grin, swinging his arms as if he was going to throw her.

“Ash! No! Don’t drop me please,” she said, her laughter ringing out with her words.

“But you just asked me to put you down,” Ash teased.

“Not in the water!”

“Well, since my legs are already wet, we might as well go all in,” Ash said, wading almost waist-deep. Any deeper and she too would get wet.

“Ash, don’t be silly! We don’t have a change of clothes!”

Ash lowered his right arm, which was supporting her legs, just enough so her feet touched the water.

She shrieked, extending her legs up and clinging to him like he was her lifeline, her arms tightly wound around his neck. She was giggling harder and she couldn’t stop herself.

Ash pressed her closer to him.


Frankly, the feel of Ash’s muscular chest, his strong arms carrying her and the nice smell of his short, dark hair was driving her to near hysteria. Apart from hello and goodbye hugs, she hadn’t been this physically close to Ash for this length of time before. And damn, it was making her… swoon. She’d always had a thing for hunky men and Ash most definitely was one. Even with his busy schedule, he didn’t miss his time at the gym.

She was getting warm and tingly. And her gaze focused on Ash’s lips. They weren’t far away from hers…

Panic surged through her. What the hell was she thinking? This was Ash, the guy who treated her like he treated his sister!

Stop, Brenna! And tug your earlobe!

Instead, she squirmed, trying to get out of his arms.

“Brenna, quit moving or I might drop you,” Ash admonished, turning and heading back for the shore. “It’s cold.”

“You’re a silly goose, Ash. What are you gonna do now? Borrow a pair of Connor’s jeans?”

“I guess.”

“You should. You wouldn’t want to catch a cold. Your patients wouldn’t want you coughing and spluttering all over the place while you operate on them,” she teased, knowing getting ill was the last thing Ash wanted. As a sought-after ophthalmologist, Ash had often mentioned he didn’t have time to get sick.

“Since I was nice enough not to dunk you in the cold water, maybe I could give you an eye operation which would make you see better instead.”

“My eyesight’s not that bad yet, Doc,” she answered.

“It could be much better,” Ash quipped.

She giggled, burying her head in the crook of his neck. Goodness, could she at least stop acting like a teenager with a crush? Seriously.

She sighed as Ash set her down on dry sand. Her hand slid down his muscular chest before she pulled it away, realising what she was doing.

“So tell me,” Ash said. “Why are you still with him?”

“Lance?” she asked, trying to ignore the fact that she felt bereft from no longer being in his arms. “Well, he’s nice and his family’s great. We just haven’t spent enough time together lately because he’s got too much pressure at work. Which is also why you thought he was a cold fish from your first meeting at the wedding yesterday. Apart from being the shy type, he was simply not in full party mode.”

“You’ve met his family? But you said you two are not serious.”

“Not yet.”

“So you’re expecting to be serious with him at some point?” Ash prodded.

“I guess.” No, she wasn’t sure at all if she would want a long-term future with Lance. But she wasn’t really thinking now. She was too busy mentally stopping herself from jumping back into Ash’s arms and making an utter fool of herself. Crazy.

“Let’s go.”

She glanced up sharply at the brusqueness in his tone. Hmm. He was probably feeling the cold.


Ash forced himself to act nonchalant as he and Brenna trudged on the sand to rejoin the others. What the hell had gotten into him to do what he did? Holding Brenna that close for that long felt so good that it was bad. Very bad.

And, of course, he was stupid enough to ask the question that confirmed she did like Lance enough to expect something serious down the line. Heck, she was probably falling in love with the man already.

Yesterday, when Brenna had cut his heart to pieces by bringing a date to Rebecca and Zach’s wedding, he’d made another promise to himself that he’d finally move on. For Brenna to bring a boyfriend to an occasion as important as her best friend’s wedding was a big deal.

But when he’d heard her say a while ago that she and Lance weren’t serious, he’d stupidly let hope flare in his heart again.

Carrying her in his arms had been an impromptu decision, like his plan to try one more time to give her strong hints about his feelings for her. But just like before, his intentions were foiled by her words and actions.

There had been plenty of times in the past when he’d tried to tell her that she was someone very special to him. Problem was, no matter what he’d said and done, Brenna had only ever taken his words and actions as friendly, or even worse, brotherly—which had always stung like hell and had him retreating. If she’d shown even a single ounce of interest, he would have pushed through. But, nope, nothing in Brenna’s responses had indicated she had any romantic notions about him—not even a tiny bit.

If Brenna weren’t such an old and close friend, he would have wooed her hard ages ago. But their friendship was a gift as well as a curse. The fear of it being broken, or even threatened, had him holding back from expressing his true feelings. That, and the knowledge that if he did fully confess, he’d only end up hurting the both of them. He knew Brenna wouldn’t want to hurt him with her rejection, and he didn’t want to force her hand. What was more, there were his sister and their other best friends to worry about. Whatever happened between him and Brenna would most certainly affect them too.

Why, oh why, did he have to fall in love with this woman? There was nothing he could do but to keep trying to move on. Every day he wished that he’d finally meet the one person who’d make him forget about Brenna. So far, he hadn’t found her.

But he had to remain optimistic. If he wasn’t meant to be with Brenna, then there must be someone else out there for him, right?

He had to think like that. It was the only thing that enabled him to keep going—and stopped him from doing something stupid, like prostrating at Brenna’s feet and begging her to give him a chance.

Fortunately, he wasn’t exactly short on females propositioning him for dates. In fact, he’d started seeing a new one—a hairdressing salon owner he’d recently met at a colleague’s birthday party. Sophie had explicitly stated she didn’t want a serious relationship, that she was only after a fuck buddy. It suited him just fine, so they got together.

“Is the water cold, Ash?” Amanda called from a few metres away, dragging him out of his musing.


“I’ll lend you some dry clothes, bro,” Connor said, which earned the man an adoring look from Amanda.

Ash smiled. At least his sister had found herself a great guy.

“So did you manage to wake Brenna up, Ash?” Gemma asked with a grin.

He shrugged. “My mistake. She was already very much awake,” he said lightly, following the others as they resumed walking.

It was really him who needed to wake up. Brenna was dreaming of a future, and it involved another man—not him. It was never him.

So why shouldn’t today be the day he did himself a huge favour? To accept once and for all that Brenna simply wasn’t interested in him? He was sure that the moment he fully embraced that fact—no matter how much it hurt—was the moment he’d start healing, and perhaps open his heart to someone else.

Yes, the time had come. It was now.

He took a deep breath and glanced surreptitiously at Brenna. God, she was beautiful. The breeze was whipping her long black hair around her face. And from where he was standing, he could fully admire those beautiful lashes that framed her gorgeous brown eyes. It was a pity she wasn’t his. And today, he finally got it. She’d never be his.

Silently, he said goodbye.

His heart squeezed and heavy sadness hit him as he mentally let go of the woman he’d loved for years. They’d still be friends. They’d always be friends. And he’d always be there for her if she needed him. Always.

But from now on, he’d keep his distance.

“I think I should head home,” he said casually to the group, not wanting his melancholy to be noticed by anyone.

“Why?” Amanda asked. “Connor’s clothes should fit you.”

“Uh.” Damn. He couldn’t think of a good enough reason.

Amanda linked her arm with his. “You have to stay, Ash. We’re all here—well, except for Bec and Zach—so we could celebrate my engagement.”

He gave his sister a fake bright smile and dutifully walked with the group to Connor and Amanda’s apartment. Unfortunately, he had no choice.

Nothing different from how you usually deal with it, Ash. Pretend Brenna’s just another one of your “adopted” sisters.

Yes, he was an expert in that particular pretense. Hopefully it would be much easier from here on in. Because from now on, there would be no more hoping. Years of hoping was tiring, and his heart was tired.

***End of Chapter One***

Tomorrow, I'll be back with Chapter Two 🙂 .

If you've already pre-ordered your copy of Always, many, many thanks! If you haven't yet, consider getting it early as it's currently on a special pre-order price of $2.99USD. About two days after release date on October 22nd, the price will go up to $3.99. Click here for the links to the stores where you can pre-order your copy.

Also, before I go, could I ask a favour? With literally millions of books out there, it won't be easy for Always to get noticed by new readers. A Thunderclap campaign has been set up for Always where, if it reaches 100 supporters, Thunderclap will automatically share the message about Always on behalf of supporters. We're close, and I need your help. If you're on Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr, I'd really be grateful if you could throw in your support. Here's the link.

Thanks so much!

Stay tuned for Chapter Two.

Lots of love,
Miranda xxx


AGAIN: Chapter One

Again-200x300August 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.


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—

“Hi, Amanda!”

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.

Heavens above.

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:

Apple iTunes | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Google Play

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.

Miranda xxx