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Title: Stripping Her Defenses
Author: Amanda Adams
Genre: Contemporary Romance
About Stripping Her Defenses
Regret is a strange thing…sometimes it drops a man to his knees. But sometimes it’s more like a slow drip poison. I’ve only ever regretted two things in my life. Walking away from her was one of them...
Duty? Honor? Love? After ten years in the military, they all mean nothing to Daniel, nothing but pain. He's home now, but war—and the secrets that followed him—hold him in an unrelenting grip. It’s dangerous to fall in love, dangerous to believe the past will stay buried where it can’t hurt the people around him, where it can’t hurt her.
But one look at Chloe and he remembers a time when all he worried about was getting his hands on her. Does he deserve a second chance? Hell no. But he's got a new mission now: Strip every single one of Chloe's defenses and win back her heart. He'll use any means necessary to seduce her. And when the past comes calling, he’ll stop at nothing to protect her. Because when he's on a mission, he always gets his mark.
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“Chloe, you’re showing him a house. This is all business. Stop acting like this is some kind of date,” I mutter to myself, attempting to dial down the intensity and back away from the ledge. Maybe if I say it out loud enough times, I’ll believe it. Maybe, if I can forget the heat of that kiss, I’ll stop wanting what I can’t have. And Daniel definitely ranks high on my list of things I can’t have. I feel dangerously close to falling and giving in to childhood impulses.
I’m an adult now. I’d been a stupid nineteen-year-old kid when I made that pass at Daniel. I’d been a stupid kid who thought true love conquered all. And I knew I loved him and that he would love me. I’d watched all the right movies and read all the right books. The beautiful young princess always won the prince in the end, and then they lived happily-ever-after.
That was the big lie. In real life, the prince turned her down flat and disappeared on the other side of the world, her mom got sick, died of cancer, and left the princess with a pile of bills and a life insurance policy that didn’t even come close to covering the costs of settling the estate. In real life, the princess had to work three minimum-wage jobs to pay for a realtor’s license and had hustled like the devil every day since.
No, I’m not that naïve little girl anymore. I’d seen too much of life to go back to that kind of thinking. Which meant I had to get over the nervous anticipation of seeing Daniel again. Today would be pure business and I am a confident, independent woman now. That kiss meant nothing to me, and neither did his rejection.
Nope. Not a thing. I can act like it never happened. I’d kissed plenty of men since then. Loads. At least…I had to think hard for a minute…at least three. That was more than enough to know that Daniel isn’t the only guy on the planet. There are plenty of other… massive shoulders supporting muscular necks that smell of wonderful cologne… in the sea; I just haven’t reeled in the right one. But I will. I’m not afraid to love again and I don’t regret a moment of time spent with my mother before she passed. I cherish my memories, grateful that I had love in my life at all. And when I do meet someone new, I will forget all about my childhood crush on Daniel.
I purse my lips, calm my breathing and focus on a circle of fog forming on the glass window. I am so over my best friend’s older brother. Over. Done. Not even a little nervous to see him again. He has to be old and fat and ugly now. Yep. Losing his hair, scarred up from the war like in one of those sci-fi movies. Grotesque and completely unattractive. Has. To. Be.
I turn to make one last circle around the house, making sure everything is in place for the showing before Mr. Ugly arrives. Most of the owners’ furniture is in storage. A couple of nice magazines decorate the coffee table. I brought in flowers after the painters finished changing the pale blue and green walls to neutral beige that I knew would help the place sell. All the family photos are hidden in a drawer upstairs and a table setting straight out of “Realtors R Us” highlights the dining room. Martha Stewart herself would be proud of the crystal and the silver and the perfectly folded napkins in elegant rings next to the impossibly white china.
I have no doubt he will notice none of it or tell it to go find some candleholder its own age.
When Sara told me that Daniel was back in town, and he wanted to buy a house, it felt like fate. It would be an opportunity to prove that I had grown up and moved on, that he meant nothing more to me than what I would feel for any childhood friend, that I could be completely immune to his charm. With Daniel, this is an opportunity to feel like I am the one in charge for the first time in our lives. I am ready for that. More than I’d like to admit. I served my time being the tag-along, annoying younger sibling’s best friend. No more.
I start to straighten the floral arrangement on the dining room table for the hundredth time but stop my obsessive craziness and smack a daisy in frustration. “I doubt he cares about you stupid flowers,” I tell them, sighing at my ridiculous behavior. And the poor daisy lilts over. I think I broke its poor neck—or its heart—because I yelled at it. As I attempt to reconcile with the wronged and innocent flower I hear the deep rumble of an engine approaching outside.
Marching to the front door, I open it to greet him--as I do all of my clients—and watch with my heart in my throat as Daniel rides up on his motorcycle. After parking it, he takes off his helmet, his dark hair gleams in the bright, Texas sunshine. A leather jacket hugs his muscular arms and shoulders while tight denim shows that nothing about him has diminished since I’d last seen him.
In fact, I realize just how much of a boy he’d been at twenty-two. Now he is all man, from the slight lines at the corners of his mouth to the way he moves. Everything about him screams confident, virile male in his prime.
Damn it. So much Mr. Ugly.
This indifference thing might be harder than I thought.
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About the Author
Amanda Adams writes super-sexy, new adult and contemporary romance. A full time author, Amanda spends her days trying to walk more and type less. If she eats a salad for lunch, she makes sure to reward herself with chocolate after (as any reasonable woman would do.) Amanda believes in true love, love at first sight, and every other cliche because lightning struck her in high school and she's been happily married to her sweetheart ever since. However, she also knows, from personal experience, that life can big one great big, painful mess as well. Amanda believes in keeping things real. Her books are free of cheating--with a guaranteed HEA--but hold on tight: it's going to be one hell of a bumpy ride.
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