After We Fall by Melanie Harlow
Publication Date: November 28th, 2016
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Jack Valentini isn’t my type.
Sexy, brooding cowboys are fine in the movies, but in real life, I prefer a suit and tie. Proper manners. A close shave.
Jack might be gorgeous, but he’s also scruffy, rugged, and rude. He wants nothing to do with a “rich city girl” like me, and he isn’t afraid to say so.
But I’ve got a PR job to do for his family’s farm, so he’s stuck with me for ten days, and I’m stuck with him. His glares. His moods. His tight jeans. His muscles.
His huge, hard muscles.
Pretty soon there’s a whole different kind of tension between us, the kind that has me misbehaving in barns, trees, and pickup trucks. I’ve never done anything so out of character—but it feels too good to stop.
And the more I learn about the grieving ex-Army sergeant, the better I understand him. Losing his wife three years ago left him broken and bitter and blaming himself. He doesn’t think he deserves a second chance at happiness.
But he’s wrong.
I don’t need to be his first love. If only he’d let me be his last.
“Second chances are not given to make things right, but are given to prove that we could be even better after we fall.” —Unknown
How does something that’s supposed to be pretend so quickly turn into something real?
How does a woman who so desperately yearns for love…for a soul mate…for someone to be her other half give her heart to a man who doesn’t know how to stay…who doesn’t know how to do anything but sabotage himself because he’s afraid?
How does a man who’s never had anything real in his life take down his emotional barricade and give himself over to the true feelings he has for a woman who makes him want to be more than he is?
These are only some of the questions that Claire French and Theo Macleod find themselves desperately wanting to answer when she hires him to be her pretend boyfriend because she’s sick of being “single.” From the start of their faux relationship, there’s a spark that both of them are aware of but acting on the chemistry between them is not part of Noah’s job description and frankly, it’s not something that Noah will allow himself to pursue because romance and love don’t belong in his drifter lifestyle…too bad his heart thinks otherwise.
In some ways, both Claire and Theo are cowards; they’re afraid of conquering their biggest fears because they don’t think they can handle the rejection or accept that what they so desperately want might not be obtainable. But if they don’t try…if they don’t step up to the challenge, they may miss out on exactly what they need to feel alive and feel free from their burdens, especially Theo.
If You Were Mine is an emotional journey…one that doesn’t follow a straight path and one that’s a battle between the head and the heart of two people who deserve all the love in the world. It’s easy to see that Claire and Theo are not pretending when they’re together…that they share something real and unexpected, but it’s also clear that Theo’s opinion of himself and the events of his past define is present in monumental ways, forcing him to react to his true feelings for Claire in cowardly ways and allowing the walls he has built to keep everyone out to remain steady and strong because he’s afraid.
If You Were Mine is a love story on a number of different levels, and in order for Claire and Theo to have a chance at something real as a couple, they need to love themselves enough to try…to step out of the boxes they’ve made for themselves and take a risk that might end in heartbreak but one that might also prove that love is enough to make people stay.
4 Poison Apples
A guy in a black leather jacket set a coffee cup down on the table and sat opposite me.
I looked over at him, feeling slightly awkward since I’d have to tell him he couldn’t sit there. He was handsome, with warm brown eyes and short dark hair, but he wasn’t Fred. “I’m sorry, I’m waiting for someone,” I said. “But I can move.”
To my surprise, he smiled confidently. “Claire, right? I’m Fred.”
I screwed up my face. “You can’t be. Fred has blond hair and blue eyes. I saw his picture.”
He laughed, almost condescendingly. “I don’t use my real picture, Claire. People are crazy.”
What? This made no sense. “I don’t understand. How can you advertise yourself with someone else’s photo? Don’t women get mad when you show up?”
He shrugged, his grin turning a little cocky. “Haven’t had any complaints so far.”
Actually, he was more attractive than the photo he’d used online—more rugged and masculine, with his scruffy jaw, big shoulders, and brawny chest. Meeting the real Fred was kind of like ordering the chicken piccata and being brought the Porterhouse, which hadn’t even been on the menu.
But that wasn’t the point.
(And I’d described someone completely different to Elyse.)
“So, what, you use a fake photo to lure potential clients and then you set up the coffee meeting to check them out first?” I asked indignantly.
“Wouldn’t you?” He shrugged out of his jacket. “It’s a scary world out there.”
I crossed my arms, sitting up tall. “No! That’s a scam. I don’t like scammers.”
“No, it isn’t. I don’t take any money from them. I don’t even talk to them, I just leave.”
Frowning, I said, “That doesn’t seem right to me. These people are willing to pay you to hang out with them and probably feel bad enough about themselves already, and you just walk out without even giving them a chance?”
He shrugged. “Look, if it makes you feel any better, I’ve only walked off a job once, and that was because I thought I recognized the woman. I prefer to keep my personal and professional identities separate. That’s fair, isn’t it?”
Professional identity? He was a rent-a-date! I shook my head in disbelief. “Is your name even Fred?”
“Does it matter?”
“Yes,” I snapped. “How am I supposed to know what to call you?”
He grinned as he leaned toward me and lowered his voice. “Call me anything you want. You’re the boss.”
Was he flirting with me or making fun of me? I cleared my throat and pressed my knees tighter together. “I’d like to call you by your actual name, please. Bad enough I have to pay someone to play my fake boyfriend. I’d like something to be real, at least.”
He held his eyes steady on mine for a moment. I felt like he was sizing me up, trying to decide if he could trust me, so I stared right back without blinking. If anyone at this table was trustworthy, it was me.
“Theo,” he said quietly, his eyes dropping to my lips for the merest fraction of a second. “My name is Theo.”
There. Was that so hard? I smiled at him before picking up my latte.“Well, it’s nice to meet you, Theo.”
“What, you’re just going to believe me? You’re much too trusting, Claire. I bet people take advantage of you.”
I set the cup back down on the saucer with an angry clank. “Is your name Theo or not?”
“Shhh, it is, it is,” he said, laughing. Then he glanced over his shoulder like he was in the fucking CIA. “But I don’t give that out to just anyone. You should feel special.”
About the Author
Melanie Harlow likes her martinis dry, her heels high, and her history with the naughty bits left in. When she’s not writing or reading, she gets her kicks from TV series like VEEP, Game of Thrones, House of Cards, and Homeland. She occasionally runs three miles, but only so she can have more gin and steak.
Melanie is the author of the HAPPY CRAZY LOVE series, the FRENCHED series, and the sexy historical SPEAK EASY duet, set in the 1920s. She lifts her glass to romance readers and writers from her home near Detroit, MI, where she lives with her husband, two daughters, and pet rabbit.
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