Title: Deceive Me
Series: Two Sisters, Book 1
Author: Stacey Mosteller
Release Date: September 29th, 2015
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Sexy playboy Jack Taylor is a hot commodity. Everyone wants him. Women fall at his feet, begging for his attention. But Jack can never tell if women want his heart...or his wallet. He's ready to rid himself of the superficial and shallow females banging down his door. Jack's looking for something real--with maybe even a little spice.
Fresh out of college with a culinary degree, Julianna Reynolds is ready to build the business she's always dreamed of. Eager to succeed, Jules is focused on her career and ready for a simple life of making people happy with her culinary creations.
Landing an event at Taylor Orchards, Jules runs into Jack...literally. Realizing that Julianna has no idea who he is, Jack can't resist the temptation to pretend to be someone he's not. Can something fake ever turn into something real?
Employees drive me crazy. It's our first official catering event at Taylor Orchards, a New Year's Eve wedding, and everything went smoothly - well, up to now. Now, I'm chasing down errant employees to help with clean up. Where the hell are Grace and Kevin? I'm going to strangle them! Chloe, Daniel and I can't do everything ourselves, and Andi is busy wrapping up all the event stuff. It's past midnight, and I'd like to get home sometime tonight.
The unmistakable sounds of a couple in the midst of a tryst can be heard from just around the corner, and I just know that's where Grace and Kevin are. It isn't the first time. I don't want to fire them, I understand young love, but this is getting ridiculous. Wanna know why you don't hire your friends? Especially your friends who are dating? Yup, this is why. They sneak off at the worst possible times to try to get in a quickie.
I have no interest in seeing those two doing that, so I start to back up...right into someone. Shit. Closing my eyes, I count mentally to ten before turning around to see a tall, dark-haired, seriously hot guy. Great...not only did I step all over him; he's hot. Just my freaking luck. I have to look way, way up to meet his dark blue eyes, and the smirk on his face makes me want to smack him.
"Hi," he says, with what I'm sure is supposed to be a sexy grin, but instead it's just irritating. He reaches out to grab my arms like he's trying to steady me, but I step back, closer to the sounds I was trying to escape. Mystery guy steps forward too, finally cluing in to what's obviously going on around the corner from where we stand. His smirk widens into a salacious grin as he looks down at me. "Well, seems like someone's having a good night."
"Yeah, real good," I scoff. "Must be nice to blow off your job for a quick sex romp. Some of us don't have that luxury." I cross my arms over my chest as I stare up at him, trying not to notice just how attractive he is. It's been too long since I had sex; that's the only explanation I have for the feelings swirling in my stomach at his proximity. I don't have time for this, for him, for a distraction. Andi and I are still trying to get this business off the ground.
He tilts his head to the side, studying me hard enough that I'm certain he can see exactly what I'm thinking. "Are you going to interrupt them...or shall I?" Well, that wasn't what I expected him to say. I was waiting for a "why don't we take a page out of their book" and a wink, so it takes me a second to respond. I had a snarky comment all ready to go, something along the lines of "Aww gee, I would, but then I'd just be disappointed". Now, I have to be nice to him.
"Have at it," I say, sweeping one arm wide in a be my guest gesture, watching as he saunters - yes saunters - over to peek around the corner.
Damn. Admiring the way his ass fills out his dress pants, I don't notice him looking over his shoulder at me until he clears his throat. My gaze flies up to meet his, and the knowing smile on his face has me fisting my hands at my sides, equally embarrassed and pissed that he caught me looking at him. "You sure you don't want to see this? It's quite...inventive."
"Yeah, no I'm good. Just tell them they're still on the clock and to hurry the hell up." I narrow my eyes at him, waiting for him to ask me again, but he just shrugs.
"Your loss, sweetheart." He turns back to the couple around the corner, and I can hear the laughter in his voice when he says, "Uh, hey. Just wanted to let you know that you're needed back at work. Ahhh, I've been told to tell you to hurry the hell up." Turning back to walk towards me with a cocky look on his face and one eyebrow raised, he says, "Done. Now, you owe me one."
He starts to walk past me, and I grab his arm without thinking. "Owe you? What do I owe you for?" This guy has some serious nerve! All he did was tell some people to break it up...it's not like he cured cancer.
"For saving your pretty little sensibilities," the infuriating guy says with a laugh as he turns back around to face me.
No lie...I see red. Freaking. Red. "Excuse me? All you did was save me from having to walk two feet and yell at some people." He just stares at me; eyebrow raised and not saying a word. Realizing I'm still holding onto him, I drop his arm like it like it's about to burn me. Taking a step back, which is ironically a little closer to the party for two still going at it behind me.
"True. But, you also didn't have to see him do that thing with his --" I cover my ears with my hands, not wanting that particular picture in my head. He laughs at my reaction, walking backwards down the path, each step taking him farther away from me...and I'm glad. I am glad, right? I should be sighing in relief right now, so why do I wish he'd come back?
I even start to say "wait", and he stops, but we're interrupted by Kevin and Grace coming around the corner. They freeze when they see me and the guy who's name I still don't know. Grace's face turns red, but Kevin just smiles, showing his perfect white teeth. "Oh, hey Julianna. We, uh, we didn't realize you were looking for us." He tries for nonchalance, like what he and Grace were just doing outside for anyone to walk up on is completely normal.
"Well, you're supposed to be here to work...and not that kind of work. You aren't being paid for that."
My smart ass reply is one-upped by hot guys reply. "Don't we all wish we were though?" I roll my eyes, but he isn't finished. One side of his mouth tips up, his eyes on mine when he says, "Julianna. Pretty name for a pretty girl. Can I get a number too?" My mouth falls open at his audacity. Seriously?
"Why would I give you my number? I'm not paying you for sex." Kevin and Grace's laughter behind me emboldens me, and I put my hands on my hips, staring him down.
His lifted lips turn into a full smile as we continue to watch each other. "Oh sweetheart, trust me, you would." His cockiness should be a serious turn off, but instead, every spot on my body his eyes touch tingles, telling me that oddly enough, cocky is working for me right now. Wanting to get away from him before giving him my number seems like a good idea, I look back at my employees, glaring hard enough at them that they skirt around me and hurry back to what they're supposed to be doing - cleaning.
I skirt around him because as soon as they walk by, he's back in my path again. It looks like he's about to grab me, so I walk a little faster. I'm almost back to the catering tent when I hear his voice one last time, my spine straightening at his words. "Julianna," he starts, "This isn't over, love. I'll get your number one way or the other." Arrogant ass. I hate the way he says my name. Or, at least, I hate the way I like how he says my name. His voice deepens and my name on his lips sounds like pure freaking sex. No! No, no, no Julianna. Ugh, I don't have time for distractions. That's my mantra, at least for the next few months.
By the time we finish cleaning everything up, it's after one and I'm dead on my feet. Everyone is in a rush to get home, and I can't blame them. I want nothing more than to fall into bed and sleep for a week. Unfortunately, that's not going to happen...especially since I hear Andi's voice yelling my name from the other side of the space they used for the event. She runs over to me, panting slightly, her blonde hair matted around her face from her own clean up, and pauses to catch her breath before she says, "Are your guys finished? I could use a little help with the heavy lifting."
A chorus of groans comes from behind us, and Andi and I both turn our attention to the three guys on my crew who were just getting ready to leave. Andi turns on the charm...smiling at all three of them and twirling a lock of the hair falling out of her undo around her finger. She's very good at pretending to be a poor defenseless female and has been getting guys to do her bidding for more years that I could ever count. It makes me wonder just a little more what happened to her in Nashville that she came home wanting to start an event planning business when she was a real estate agent. "Please guys," she begs, her eyes wide and beguiling. "I could really use the help of some big strong men." Her voice gets husky as she says the words and all three guys jump to help. She winks at me before turning to lead them over to her area as I roll mine at her antics.
I let the girls go before grabbing the last few plates to put them in the box sitting just inside the catering van. "Well Julianna, it seems we meet again." His voice startles the dishes right out of my hands, and I'm thankful they fall on the grass, not breaking. We can't afford to go around replacing dishes thanks to my clumsiness. Andi would never let me forget it.
"Jesus Christ," I pant, holding a hand over my heart as I turn to face him. "You scared the shit out of me!" He doesn't apologize, but his smile widens as his eyes travel down my body, making me feel like I'm wearing much less than my black dress pants and crisp white dress shirt. I loathe the way his stare makes me feel. It's like every single spot his gaze touches starts to tingle, and my stomach is back to somersaulting once more.
He steps closer to me, and I instinctively back up, not wanting him any closer because I'm not sure I can trust my reactions if he is. Just when I think he's going to touch me, he bends to pick up the plates still lying on the wet grass, laying them on the floor of the van. "You might want to put these away before they get broken." God, his voice is so cocky and self-assured. Combine the tone with the deepness of his voice, and I imagine he has girls dropping their panties all over the place. I refuse to be one of those girls...I have to remind myself once again that this is not what I want. Not even a little bit. Maybe if I say that enough times, I'll start believing it.
"I..." I have to clear my throat in order to speak. "Did you want something?" He laughs, and I can feel the heat rushing up to spread across my cheeks. I did not just ask him that! "I mean, can I help you with something?" He laughs harder, his eyes dancing with his amusement, and it just makes me angrier. "For the love of all that's holy. Why are you here?" My voice has risen to almost a screech, and I want to throw my hands in the air in frustration. I don't though, because somehow, I think he wants me to lose control. He's enjoying my discomfort.
His laughter quiets as he continues to study me. "I'm sorry, Julianna." He sounds sincere, but the look on his face says otherwise. He's trying for contrite, but he's only pulling off mildly amused. When I don't accept his half-assed apology, he sighs, "I came to get your number. You forgot to give it to me earlier."
"Forgot hell," I mutter under my breath, and I can see him trying to stifle his smile. He manages to keep his expression serious, barely, and waits for me to continue. "Look, I don't know the kind of girl you're used to, but I'm not in the habit of giving my number to strange men. Especially men who's names I don't know."
He smiles now, thinking he has me. "Oh, well that can easily be remedied." He holds out a hand, expecting me to shake it, and when I do, I immediately pull back, my eyes wide at the almost electric shock I felt when our bare hands touched. He steps forward, taking my hand in his once more and forcing me to look up at him. "The name's Jack." He lifts my hand to press a kiss to the back of my hand, keeping his gaze on me while he does. "It's a pleasure to meet you."
I pull my hand away as soon as he loosens his grip. "Well, Jack, I wish I could say the same." Andi's coming back in this direction, and I know she's sent her assistant in the other van so that we can go home. Shoving the plates behind me back in their tote, I move further away from him, hoping she doesn't notice how affected I am by him.
Jack opens his mouth to say something, but Andi walks over, holding her hand out for the keys. "Come on, let's go. I'm tired." She barely acknowledges Jack, walking past him with a quick "hey" before hopping up in the driver's seat.
"Sorry, I've got to go." I try for apologetic, but the relief in my voice is obvious. I guess he's not the only one pretending tonight. I don't wait for him to respond. Instead, I turn my back on him and walk around to the other side of the van. Just before I shut the door, I hear him say, "This isn't over Julianna." Of course, it isn't. I wouldn't expect anything less from the pushy egomaniac. Not wanting to face an inquisition, I lay my head back on the seat and shut my eyes. If I pretend I'm so tired I'm falling asleep, maybe she won't ask questions.
Stacey Mosteller is the New York Times & USA Today Bestselling Author of Second Chances (co-authored with H.M. Ward) and the Nashville Nights series.
She is also a wife, mother, writer and self-professed bookwhore – not necessarily in that order! As the mother of three growing boys, her Kindle has become her temporary escape from the insanity of boys, dogs and her husband. Stacey can usually be found curled up with her iPad when she’s supposed to be writing or creating endless playlists on Spotify!