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Excerpt: The Devil on Your Shoulder

Book 1: The Sexiest Bachelors

Enemies to Lovers

Chapter 1

Temptation presented itself at half past nine.

Nora Quinn had looked forward to this moment ever since she’d arrived at her co-worker Chelsea’s wedding reception. There was eye contact and a zing.

More than a few zings, truth be told.

It was an instant connection.

Not once in her entire thirty-three years had she subscribed to the insta-love theory, and she was a voracious reader of romances. In fact, any time she opened her Kindle to a romance where the hero and heroine made googly eyes at first sight, she thought: C’mon now.

More fool her, because she was now a newly converted believer in insta-love. If it could happen to her, it could happen to anyone.

She’d artfully circled around the ballroom much like a thief casing a joint and debated about approaching, but decided against it. It seemed too early to make a move. It would be better to bide her time until the perfect opportunity presented itself.

She found her seat at Table 36 in the back of the ballroom. Once there, she discovered two things: (1) she didn’t know a single person at the table, and (2) the last available spot was directly behind a huge pillar. Her view was completely blocked and her plans to surreptitiously lust from afar were ruined.

Over the past three-and-a-half hours, she watched as guy after guy after guy approached the other three single ladies to dance, but they never asked her, or even glanced her way. At least Nora was used to this sort of thing or she would have developed a complex—or convinced herself that she really did have a superpower: invisibility.

Nora did what any other woman in her position would have done. She ordered a glass of white wine from the open bar and settled in. Her second glass had remained empty for the past twenty minutes, but the promise of Temptation kept her seated. Contrary to what others thought, she could be patient. And . . . oh! Her patience was about to be rewarded.

Temptation was headed her way.

Zeroed in on her, actually.

For a moment, Nora forgot how to breathe. Just for a moment, because let’s be realistic here, she was not the sort of woman to lose her head over anything or anyone. She quickly regained her senses and sipped some water, so that she was ready.

She was more than ready.

A deep, visceral hunger tugged at her, reminding her how long it had been. Way too long.

Three whole days.

Never again would she wait this long.

Never again would she deny herself.

Never, ever again.

Nora softened her smile so that it didn’t come across so feral. Less lioness, more mouse waiting for the cat to leave to snatch the hunk of cheese. She slid her gaze away, to appear less eager . . . to act surprised. She had everything planned to a T.

“Miss?”

She rounded her eyes, going so far as to let out a small gasp—as if caught unaware—and put a hand to her chest. She glanced to the right and left of the empty table, as if to make sure she was being addressed. “Are you talking to me?”

So good.

So good, it was perfect.

“I have something for you.”

“You do?” Had that come across too eager? Too desperate? It had been a while. Three whole days kind of a while. Nora focused on keeping her cool, in not overplaying it too much. “What is it?”

“This.”

With that, Temptation was placed in front of her.

Chocolate cake.

Three layers, too! Utter bliss! The slice of wedding cake was a decadent dark chocolate crammed with even more chocolate and had alternating fillings of a silky-smooth mousse and a rich ganache. A thick chocolate frosting was artfully decorated with mini chocolate chips.

Maybe to a non-chocolatessieur, it would seem like too much chocolate. But for Nora, it was almost the right amount. If there was just a little more chocolate, then the wedding cake would have been absolutely perfect. Still, Nora was positive she’d died and gone to Chocolate Heaven.

She thanked the waiter but didn’t pick up her fork until after he left. The first bite of cake was momentous—one meant to be savored. She could dig right in if she was a barbarian . . . or if Temptation had taken a minute longer to arrive. But since the dessert was here, she could take a moment.

The moment only lasted half a second, but it was still a moment.

Nora took a good-sized forkful of cake. No dainty-sized bites here, no siree. She got all three layers and finally—finally—took a taste.

Best.

Thing.

Ever.

It was sinful in the best way imaginable, and she was not going to stop at just one bite. This cake was all hers, and she was going to enjoy every single second of it.

And perhaps—fingers crossed—she could convince a waiter to sneak her seconds.

* * *

“I want someone to look at me like that woman looked at her chocolate cake,” Keith said as he returned to the table.

Deacon Knight eyed the bottle of beer in his friend’s hand. “That’s it, O’Connell. I’m cutting you off. Keys. Hand them over.”

“This is my third one.” Keith dug into his pockets and pulled out a set of keys. “Here you go, but for the record, I’m not drunk.”

“When you start talking like that—”

“Like what?”

“Talking about women and cake and . . . stuff.”

“I’m thinking about things. Things like how everyone from college and high school is settling down—or has already done so. But we’re still single.”

“Thank God for that,” Deacon said.

“You don’t think it’s boring? We’re getting up there.”

“We’re thirty-five.”

“Exactly my point.”

“We’re not ancient.”

“One day we will be,” Keith said. “Who wants to jump on an old, wrinkly dick?”

“Your dick is already old and wrinkly, so I guess you’re out of luck.”

“Just look at Mike and Chelsea.”

Deacon humored Keith and looked at the bride and groom dancing to a Taylor Swift song. Taylor Swift of all things. Didn’t Mike hate Taylor Swift? Deacon was pretty sure Mike had Facebook-ranted about her once, but here Mike was, dancing to some cheesy love song.

“Did Mike have a brain transplant recently?”

“They seem happy,” Keith said. “Don’t you want that?”

“No.”

“I think I do. I’m tired of playing around.”

“You sure you’ve only had three beers?”

“I don’t know why you’re so against commitment.”

“I’m not against it.”

Keith snorted.

“I’m not,” Deacon said. “It’s not for me, that’s all.”

Keith gazed at his beer bottle. “Maybe I am drunk. Let’s ignore this conversation.”

“Done,” Deacon said distractedly, his attention snagged by a tall, leggy, gorgeous blonde who’d just walked past.

“You’ve finally noticed her.”

It was a big wedding, and Deacon hadn’t yet seen half of their friends. “When did you?”

“At the ceremony,” Keith said. “You would have if you hadn’t been checking out the redhead.”

Deacon had a thing for redheads and blondes and brunettes. Long legs. And tits.

“You didn’t make a move on her?”

Keith frowned. “I did, but she turned me down.”

Keith’s earlier sentimentalism made sense now—he was nursing a rejection. Deacon stood and clapped a hand to Keith’s shoulder.

“I know where you’re headed,” Keith said.

“You figured that out, did you? Smart man.” Deacon didn’t bother to straighten his tie, knowing that the slightly disheveled look would only add to his appeal. Women always seemed to want to fix his tie or run their fingers through his unruly dark hair, which always led to much more enjoyable pleasures. “Maybe you can find that cake and look at it the way you want a girl to look at you.”

* * *

Someone was sitting in her seat.

There were plenty of other empty chairs at Table 36 to choose from. Why did he have to choose hers?

This was the price she paid for going to the restroom. The line had been long, but Nora hadn’t minded too much, even if it meant she stood longer than comfortable in her now-way-too-tight kitten heels. But her shoes weren’t the issue.

He was the issue.

Logically, Nora knew she could take one of the other unoccupied chairs and that he hadn’t meant to be rude. Most likely, he’d seen an opening next to the gorgeous blonde and taken it. But it was still annoying, especially since there were plenty of options.

Nora knew why he’d selected hers. There was some privacy. Her chair was situated between the pillar and the blonde—and the pillar had made for a better conversationalist.

She glanced around the huge ballroom, but it was too crowded to see if anyone from Table 36 was returning. Her gaze flicked to blonde and the dark-haired man, who were in the early stages of the mating game. There was no way in the whole wide world she was going to interrupt that. She sat down in the chair directly opposite of the seat thief and studied him.

He was good-looking. More than good-looking. Handsome in a grown-up pretty boy way.

He was almost too beautiful.

His features were classical and refined, even though he tried to roughen up his image with the unruly hair, the loosened tie, the deceptively relaxed posture, the crooked but charming smile.

She knew his type.

Oh, did she ever know his type.

The arrogant, cocky player. The frat boy with the eternal Peter Pan syndrome. The Homecoming King and Prom King and any other fake crown he could acquire. Women would fall for him and hope for the impossible: that their magic vagina would change his hound-dog ways.

She saw his type all the time.

Men who thought they could crook a finger or smile or whisper something low and inappropriate and any woman would run to them.

In fairness, this always happened, but it was the principle of the thing.

Men like him knew the power they had—and they used it to their advantage. And, hey, she didn’t blame him much. If she had one ounce of his charisma or good looks, she would use it to benefit her sex life, too. But women like her weren’t able to rely on their looks or charisma or being noticed by men like him.

She needed another slice of chocolate cake.

Nora turned in her chair, but there were no waiters with cake to be found. She huffed out an annoyed breath, even as she held out hope that a cake-carrying waiter would magically appear.

“Your eyes are like stars.”

Oh.

My.

God.

Did he actually think that was good?

“You take my breath away.”

Forget the cake. She had a train wreck happening behind her. Slowly, she faced the table. Neither the blonde nor Casanova noticed her.

“You’re beautiful. You know that, right?” the man said to the blonde.

“Oh, please,” the blonde said with a giggle.

“Oh, please indeed,” Nora muttered. She should’ve ordered another glass of white wine on the way back from the restroom and played a drinking game. If she’d only known what she knew right now. Ah, hindsight. Always 20/20.

The man bent his head toward the blonde and smiled just enough to flash the dimple in his left cheek.

Well done. Nora almost wanted to raise the nearby glass of water to toast him. It was a good idea to play to his strengths. Less talk, more action.

“When I saw you, all other women disappeared.”

“Oh jeez,” Nora whispered.

“Your eyes are so blue,” he said.

“They’re green actually—”

Nora couldn’t contain her snort of laughter, but hastily covered it with a cough.

“—but I guess you could call them bluish-green,” the blonde hastily said. “Kind of like the ocean.”

“I could get lost in their depths.” The man placed a hand near the woman’s. “Would you save me if I did?”

“For crying out loud,” Nora said.

The man’s head shot up, and he looked her way.

Nora felt guilty at being caught red-handed. Or, in this case, was it red-tongued? Either way, she didn’t know what was coming over her.

She wasn’t normally like this.

She didn’t say things under her breath with the person of her dis-affection in hearing distance. She didn’t draw attention to herself. She felt bad for her comments, but at the same time, she felt this urge, almost like invisible hands pushed her forward or a devilish whisper in her ear egged her on. This was not her . . .

Or maybe it was.

Maybe she kept this particular part of herself so buried and locked deep, because she had always been the good girl. She never caused problems. Except the problem was . . . no one ever noticed her, and she very much feared that she was forgettable. Where had being good gotten her? Maybe she wanted to be a little bad and not hold back.

Maybe she wanted to be noticed.

This man noticed to her some degree, but only because he’d overheard her snarkiness. He quickly assessed her, almost like a scan. No doubt, he catalogued her faults and shortcomings, all of which she knew too well.

Nora assumed that this modern-day Lothario would either have striking blue eyes, or a brilliant green, or a steel-cut gray. He didn’t. His eyes were a deep, velvety brown, like the chocolate cake she’d just eaten. And then he did the worst thing imaginable . . .

He smiled at her.

That bastard.


Excerpt: The Devil on Your Shoulder