Not long to go before May 19! That's the day when The Unyielding Bachelor (Captured by Love, Book 2) is released. Yay!
I've thoroughly enjoyed writing about Lexie and Rick's love story, and I can't wait for you to read it.
It's time to share the beginning with you, so check out the hunk on the cover, then enjoy Chapter One!
The Unyielding Bachelor: Chapter One
Lexie Mead cast a narrowed gaze towards the hunky Rick Donnelly, sipping the excellent wine he’d poured for her as she wracked her brains for fresh ideas that would help her fulfil her mission.
It was exactly twelve months to the day since she’d first met him—right here in the same ballroom of a five-star Sydney hotel—and it frustrated her how little progress she’d made in making him take her flirtations seriously. What else could she do, apart from acting desperate, to make him see that she wanted to be more than friends?
They’d been introduced to each other at this same function last year—the Staff and Partners Halloween Dinner held by Bilton Machineries, Lexie’s employer and Rick’s business partner. Back then, she’d fallen in an instant crush.
Today, she’d be lying to herself if she didn’t admit that in one year, not only had their friendship developed, but her feelings for him had grown deeper. Much deeper.
With mutual friends and work connections, it had been easy for her to find ways to get into Rick’s circle of friends. With Rick also rekindling his friendship with Lexie’s older brother Brad—his former schoolmate—after years of losing contact, Lexie had been lucky enough to spend a lot of time with Rick in the past year.
But Rick couldn’t seem to see past the friendship barrier. Even right now, the gorgeous man was oblivious to her attention as he chatted with Minda, the recently hired business development manager, who was being way too tactile with him.
Lexie huffed. She knew Minda’s game. She was sure that the woman’s friendly gesture was to hide the fact that she simply wanted to feel Rick’s bicep. Lexie wouldn’t even be surprised if Minda would soon try to—
Ah, there! The flirt had grabbed Rick’s hand, giving him a come-hither look as she tried to pull him to the dance floor.
Lexie gave her officemate an evil eye although, of course, it had gone unnoticed. Fortunately, Rick shook his head, raising his wine glass, probably indicating he wanted to finish it.
Good! So he should. An expensive, limited edition Cabernet Sauvignon shouldn’t be ditched just because some female wanted to dance with him.
Unless, of course, that female’s name was Lexie Mead.
Lexie sighed. Sometimes she wondered if Rick meant more whenever he hugged and squeezed her tight, or teased her with that tender look in his eyes, or made sweet comments that made her heart race. But with Rick never asking her out on a date, she had no option but to believe she was merely reading more into his actions than what was really there.
Minda finally left and Rick noticed her gaze. “You look deep in thought there, Lex,” he said, grinning in that cute way of his.
She smiled mysteriously. “Yes. I’m trying to come up with a plan to make you fall in love,” she said lightly, stopping short of adding ‘with me’ at the end of her sentence. Last thing she wanted was to scare him off.
“You’re not really gonna bet on me, are you?”
She grinned at the scepticism on his face. His squinting brown eyes and lopsided smile indicated he didn’t believe she’d go ahead with her intention to join the betting game set up by some of his female friends. With the number of bachelors in Rick’s circle fast dwindling, some of the women had decided to bet on who would be next to come off the singles market.
“I am most definitely betting on you,” she answered.
Rick shook his head. “Don’t waste your money, Lex.”
“Your warning and concern are duly noted. But I understand that the winners have to donate their winnings to charity. So if I lose, I won’t mind. Besides, I’ve had an unexpected windfall. I can afford it.” She waved the gift certificate she held in her hand. It was her prize for coming first in tonight’s pantomime game—the highlight of every Bilton Machineries Halloween Dinner. The amount on the gift certificate was eye-popping. As one of Australia’s biggest companies, her employer was well known for being generous to its staff.
Rick smirked. “You’re gonna risk your hard-earned prize to bet that little-old-me would be the next guy to be captured by love?” he said, a hint of mockery in his tone. “I’m trying to help you here, Lex. I’d feel guilty when you have to pay up.”
She shook her head. Clearly, the man had no idea why she was joining the game—and why she was going for him.
“I think Lexie would win this bet, Rick,” teased Jade Tully, one of Lexie’s best friends who was also PA to the Bilton Machineries’ CEO—and who’d gotten engaged tonight to the CEO’s son, Lucas Renner-Bilton.
“C’mon, Jade,” Rick said. “I’m telling everyone not to put money on me, and here you are, encouraging your friend to squander her fortune on a lost cause. Lucas, say something to your fiancée.”
Lucas, who also happened to be one of Rick’s closest friends, shrugged. “I’ve already told Jade that Lexie’s chances are slim if she’s picking you to be the next to fall,” he said.
“Aw, Lucas,” Lexie said. “You, of all people, should know that men like Rick do fall. Look at you. No one won the first round of bets because no one picked you. And yet just a few minutes ago, you were up on stage proposing to Jade.”
“And you think Rick would follow in my footsteps? I’m just lucky to find Jade, Lex. Rick doesn’t have the same kind of luck I have,” Lucas joked.
She could only smile because she wasn’t at all certain that Rick was ready to get into a serious relationship. In fact, he’d openly declared that he wasn’t looking for a girlfriend.
Nothing surprising about that. Rick was a ladies’ man who had attractive women flirting with him left, right and centre. And at thirty, he was a successful entrepreneur who owned a chain of luxury car dealerships. His clients were among the wealthiest people in Australia.
Any guy who had lots of wannabe girlfriends like he did would find it hard to want to settle down. What for, when there were plenty of girls who weren’t demanding exclusivity?
She repressed a sigh and smiled instead as Jade sat next to her. “Had enough of snogging your new fiancé at our company party?” she teased.
“No,” Jade said with a giggle.
“You are so glowing, Jade,” she said with a smile, truly happy for her friend yet envious at the same time.
“Thank you. But let’s talk about you and the bet. You ready to let Rick know how you feel?”
She glanced at Rick and Lucas, who were busy having their own conversation. “Since my flirtations are going unnoticed, I think I need to come out a little bit more,” she whispered.
“Lucas said something to me a few minutes ago.”
“He said that Rick has a very good reason for staying single,” Jade said conspiratorially.
She frowned. “What reason?”
“Lucas said he’s not at liberty to say.”
“Yeah, it’s intriguing,” Jade said. “I could cajole Lucas into telling me about it, but I don’t want to pressure him. It sounded like he’s made a promise to Rick to keep it confidential.”
“Maybe Rick himself would tell us.”
“Well, since you’ll be seducing him…” Jade teased.
She grinned. “You know what? Now that I’m quite set on it, I can’t wait to start.”
“Rick better watch out,” Jade said with a laugh. “His days as a free man could be numbered.”
Lexie sighed. “And I aim to be the one to put an end to it.”
“Are you gonna tell Lexie?” Lucas asked Rick in a low voice.
“Tell her what?”
“The reason why you have to stay single for a few more years?”
Rick shook his head. “You know I’ve gone down the path of telling a woman that in the past, with almost disastrous consequences. It’s not worth the risk. Besides, I don’t really see the point in letting Lexie know.”
“The point is she’s interested in you. Don’t tell me you haven’t noticed.”
“Of course I have,” he answered, trying not to stare at Lexie, who looked extra stunning tonight. Her long caramel hair was in a bun with curly wisps flowing freely around her beautiful face. Her light brown eyes—he liked to think of them as honey—were perfectly framed by those extra-long lashes of hers. And hell, her black evening dress accentuated her sexy curves so well that he had to constantly remind himself not to drool.
No, Lexie showing interest in him had never gone unnoticed.
“And you do know what she meant when she said she was betting on you, right?” Lucas asked.
He nodded, exhaling a heavy breath. Lexie cranking up her flirtations would drive him crazy. It was hard enough to pretend that her actions didn’t affect him. If she pushed the envelope further, even by just a notch, he’d be in big trouble. He didn’t have much resistance left when it came to her.
Acting like he only saw Lexie as a friend was taking its toll. He knew that when he got home tonight, he’d be staring at his ceiling with a heavy weight on his chest, wondering what it would be like if he could let her know he was attracted to her, too.
His jaw tensing, he silently cursed his stepmother for his predicament. If Betty Donnelly weren’t the scheming woman that she was, there’d be no need for all this pretence.
His phone vibrated in his pocket. He checked it and excused himself to take the call.
“Hey, Shel,” he said to his fifteen-year-old half-sister, whom he loved to death.
“Hi, Rick. Can I stay with you tomorrow night?” Shelley pleaded.
“Why? What’s wrong?” he asked, frowning.
“Nothing. Mum’s taking home this new man for dinner tomorrow and I don’t wanna be home for that.”
“Ah. And I thought you were just missing me. I should have known better,” he said with a mock sigh, loving to tease her.
“Hey! Just because I get too busy spending time with my own friends doesn’t mean I don’t miss you. You know you’re still my favourite guy in the whole wide world.”
He smirked. “Yeah, yeah, yeah.” His sister was a responsible kid with maturity beyond her years, so he didn’t usually worry about her getting into any trouble.
“So can I sleep over at your place tomorrow night? Please?”
“And here I was, looking forward to a no-brat weekend.”
“Why? Do you have a new girlfriend coming over? Remember I’m not twenty-one yet!”
“Can’t you grow up faster?”
“Sorry,” Shelley said, her tone turning remorseful. “You have to wait another six years before you can have a proper relationship.”
He relented. “Hey, it’s not your fault. How many times do I have to tell you that?”
“Aileen still calls me and asks how you are.”
“Does she? You don’t need to entertain her calls, you know.”
“She said she’s still waiting for you.”
“Oh, God,” he said with a groan. “Shel, please don’t keep her hopes up.”
“But you only broke up with her because you had to! Because Mum is just so… so… unreasonable!”
“I didn’t have to, Shelley. Aileen and I weren’t working out.”
“Well, I still think it’s nasty of my mother to force those conditions on you,” Shelley said with resentment.
He sighed. He didn’t have a problem disliking Betty. They weren’t blood related. But it saddened him that the woman lacked certain traits to be the ideal mother Shelley could look up to.
“Can we talk later, Shel? I’m at a corporate function.”
“Oh, sorry. I thought from the noise that you’re in some club. So can you tell Mum that you want me to stay over tomorrow for some brother-sister bonding time? You know how disappointed she gets when I refuse to meet her dates. Apparently, she really likes this one. His name’s Todd.”
“Will you cook something for me?” he quipped.
“And clean up afterwards?”
“That’s child slavery! I’ll cook, but you clean up.”
“Hey, who’s doing who a favour here?” he said with a chuckle. Shelley hated cleaning up as much as she loved cooking.
“You can always leave it to your housekeeper,” Shelley suggested hopefully.
“No, Shel. She has the weekends off.”
“Well, then, tell you what,” Shelley said. “There’s a couple of new dishes that I’ve learned how to cook and I want to practice making them in bigger quantities. Why don’t you ask some of your friends to dinner? I’ll cook for everyone. Then you can ask them to help you with the cleaning up.”
He laughed. Shelley was one smart cookie who knew how to twist his arm. At a young age, she was already a phenomenal cook who was always keen for opportunities to show off her culinary skills.
“Maybe I’ll invite Lucas and Jade. They got engaged tonight.”
“Ooh, did they? Let’s make it a special engagement dinner for them, then,” Shelley said excitedly.
“Great! You’ll have to pick me up early, like three o’clock.”
“Why so early?”
“Because we have to go grocery shopping first. And I’ll need plenty of time to prepare.”
“Right. But I still have to ask Lucas and Jade. If they can’t come, it’ll just be you and me, okay?”
“Okay. By the way, Mum asked me the other day if you’ve decided to increase my monthly allowance.”
“Why?” he asked with instant suspicion.
“Something about the cost of living going up and how I need to pay more towards food and the house upkeep.”
“What?” He suppressed his curse words for Betty. “House upkeep already comes out of your account because you own the house. You know she doesn’t pay a cent towards it. So what did you say?”
“Nothing. I told her to talk to you and, of course, she won’t. She’s just being her usual self—always complaining how unfair everything is.”
Rick bit his tongue to stop himself from ranting against Betty. He didn’t want to say anything else that would make Shelley lose respect for her mother. Even with Betty’s obvious faults, Shelley was still keen to maintain a good relationship with her mum. She did have a lot of love for the woman who’d given birth to her, and vice versa.
“I’m glad it’s you who’s now managing my money, Rick,” Shelley said quietly.
He pressed his lips. That came at a high price. But he had no choice but to bear it for both his and Shelley’s sake.
“You’ll talk to Mum about tomorrow night, right?”
“Yes. And I’ll drop you off to school on Monday.”
“Thank you, best big brother in the world,” Shelley crooned. “I love you heaps.”
“Love you, too, brat.”
He hung up and went back to join Lucas, Jade and Lexie.
“Hey, you guys doing anything tomorrow night?” he asked, including Lexie in the conversation. Why not invite her too, right? Shelley wouldn’t mind.
“We’re having a get-together with Erin and Cassie to celebrate our engagement,” Jade said.
Damn. Jade and Lexie’s two other best friends had beaten him to it.
“Why do you ask?” Lucas said.
“I was just talking to Shelley. She wants to stay over at my house tomorrow night. When she heard that you guys got engaged, she said she wants to cook a special dinner for us.”
“Ooh,” Jade said, a delighted smile appearing on her face. “I’m sure Erin and Cassie won’t mind if we reschedule.”
Rick laughed. These guys had tasted Shelley’s cooking once before. Needless to say, they’d loved it.
“Erin and Cassie can come, too,” he offered, “so you don’t have to miss out on your girlie night.”
“Shelley won’t mind?” Lexie asked. “There might be too many of us—although we’ll be more than happy to help her in the kitchen.”
Rick pulled out his phone and rang his sister, who was ecstatic at the thought of more people eating her food. “The girls said they’ll help, too,” he added.
“But I’ll be the head chef, right?” Shelley asked.
He rolled his eyes. “She wants to be the head chef,” he said to Lexie and Jade.
“Of course!” the women responded.
“I heard that. Yay!” Shelley said.
He was grinning when he hung up.
“I can’t wait, Rick,” Lexie said. “I’ll have to remember to bring my special recipe notebook so I could jot down some notes. Your sister’s such a genius in the kitchen.”
“I have to say that’s not an exaggeration,” he said proudly, smiling at her.
Lexie grinned back, and something in her eyes hit him hard.
The kind that he could wallow in for hours on end. The kind he’d find hard to leave.
He shook his head surreptitiously and peeled his gaze off her. He already knew how dangerous it was to stare into Lexie’s eyes. How many times did he have to remind himself to keep eye contact to a minimum?
He could always suggest the no-strings thing with her—that wouldn’t be against the rules. But he had a feeling that would be such a bad idea. He only had to look at her and his heart would go freaking haywire. Why start something that could get him in deep trouble?
He hid a sigh. He’d never had a problem avoiding women who could rope him into wanting a relationship. But Lexie had been sorely testing his restraint. And he was getting exhausted of pretending. So exhausted.
Unfortunately, he had no choice but to stick with the only safe thing: keep Lexie at a distance.
###End of Chapter One###
The Unyielding Bachelor is now available for pre-order from the following stores:
He has to stay away from her.
Thirty-year-old entrepreneur Rick Donnelly is under contract to remain unattached until his fifteen-year-old half-sister turns twenty-one. If he breaks the rule, not only will he have to hand over the management of his half-sister’s substantial inheritance to his reckless stepmother, but he’ll also have to transfer twenty percent ownership of his company to the untrustworthy woman. When the tempting Lexie Mead decides to knock down his heart’s defenses, he finds himself in danger of breaking the contract’s strict condition–something he simply cannot afford to do.
She intends to win his heart.
Twenty-six-year-old Lexie Mead has long had feelings for the hunky Rick Donnelly. Tired of being treated as just another one of his friends, she sets out to win his heart from prettier and more aggressive women admirers. But Rick has complications to deal with… and enemies who will do anything to see him fail. She doesn’t want him to lose the things he’s worked hard to keep. But how can they have a future together when she is forced to walk away and Rick can’t ask her to stay?
The Unyielding Bachelor can be enjoyed as a stand-alone or as Book 2 of the Captured by Love series. I recommend reading the books in order to fully enjoy the series.
Stay tuned for Chapter Two of The Unyielding Bachelor!