by: Tracey Livesay
Series: Shade of Love
Genre: Multicultural, Interracial, Contemporary Romance
Release Date: August 29, 2017
Publisher: Avon Impulse
An accident changed Leighton Clarke's life forever.
When she awakens from a coma, her childhood memories are intact but she possesses no memories of the past six years of her life. Terrified, anxious and disoriented, she's only calmed by the presence of the gorgeous celebrity chef with compassionate brown eyes, the man who turns out to be her fiancée, Jonathan.
Jonathan Moran is tormented over his part in the deception that he's Leighton's fiancé. In truth, she's engaged to his brother! Any day now, her memory is destined to return and she'll remember it's his fault she was injured. Meanwhile, the more time they spend together, the closer they become until Jonathan begins to wish the pretense of them being a couple was real.
And then Leighton's memories come flooding back…
Jonathan had needed to employ every trick in his disciplinal arsenal to keep his distance from her. It’d been much easier in the hospital. Nothing like the scent of antiseptic, the sight of machines and tubing and the sound of heart monitors and children crying to depress his libido and remind him of the inappropriateness of his carnal thoughts.
But seeing her in his house, looking like she belonged: tall, lush, beautiful, with skin like dark satin?
The looks that passed between them set the blood boiling in his veins and threatened to demolish the wall he’d spent the better part of a week erecting. And then she’d walked into his arms and breached all of his defenses.
Initially, he’d planned to stay home and keep an eye on her. Watch a movie or something similarly low-key. But after that embrace, any thought of staying was out of the question. He needed space. And three levels of living in thirty-five hundred square feet wouldn’t be enough.
Leaving her had been a dick move, but giving in to what he’d been feeling would’ve been unpardonable. So he’d inoculated himself from shame, told himself she’d call if she needed to, and he’d dived headfirst into last minute preparations for the restaurant.
When he’d finally looked up and seen it was after midnight, a bitter taste had coated his tongue. He’d checked his phone but found nothing from her on his missed calls log. No missed texts. Maybe he’d misread the situation.
Maybe she’d wanted some time by herself.
But seeing her now . . .
He was a fucking idiot.
She whimpered and the sound ripped him apart.
He perched on the edge of the bed and shook her shoulder.
She jerked awake and turned wide espresso-colored eyes to him. Her distress constricted his already battered heart.
Which took another beating when the light accentuated the faintest trace of tear tracks on her cheeks.
“Hi.” Her voice emerged low and a tad rough.
“Why didn’t you call me?”
She shrugged. “I didn’t want to bother you.”
“I gave you my number for a reason. You wouldn’t be bothering me.”
“I wasn’t sure, since you were in such a hurry to get out of here.”
Her words scored a direct hit. He sighed. “I’m sorry.”
“Why?” She sighed and rolled back to face the window, laying her head down on her arm. “You didn’t sign up for this and you don’t have to be here. You can go.”
Her body was rigid, her shoulders curling over her chest, sorrow and anguish emanating off her in waves.
Listen to her, Moran. Go. Right now.
That’s exactly what he should do. Her earlier embraces, the kisses in the hospital… she wasn’t responding to him. Hell, she didn’t even like him. She was probably reacting to subliminal feelings she had for Thomas. And when she’d been told that Jonathan was her fiancé, she’d transferred that affection to him.
He couldn’t allow himself to trust it was real or to do anything to bolster the belief that they were a couple. Thomas would return soon or she’d get her memories back. Either way, Jonathan only hoped they could move past their previous hostilities and try to get along. Having spent time in her company, with her guard down, he could finally acknowledge what his brother found attractive about her, physical beauty aside. Although—
I asked Leighton to marry me because I respect her and admire her, and because we have the potential to become an influential couple in this city.
Had Thomas ever seen the vulnerable side of his fiancée? If he was here, would he give her the affection she so desperately needed?
Considering he’d left the country when she’d been in a coma, Jonathan didn’t think so.
Before he could second guess his decision, he kicked off his shoes and lay down on the bed. He curved an arm around her waist and pulled her back until she was nestled against him, her head resting on his outstretched arm.
His soul appeased, satisfaction extended from his chest and spread throughout his body.
“I’m sorry,” he said again.
She exhaled and fitted her body more snugly against him. “Me, too.”
“You don’t have anything to apologize for. I never should’ve left you alone, not on your first night home.”
“I was so afraid.”
Light couldn’t travel through the space between their bodies yet he still had to strain to hear what she’d said.
Leighton afraid? He pictured the woman who’d walked into Sedici like she’d owned the place. “Why?”
“How often have I stayed here? Do I know anyone in this neighborhood? Are they friendly?” She shook her head, her hair soft against him. “I had no idea who I could trust. I felt alone.”
Though it wasn’t his promise to make, he told her, “You’re not alone. If I have anything to say about it, you never will be.”
Shudders wracked her body and warm tears seared his skin.
A lump materialized in the back of his throat. “No. Leighton, please. Don’t cry.”
“And for fuck’s sake, stop apologizing.”
He shifted and bent his arm, urging her to face him. Using his thumb, he brushed away her tears and traced the path of her angular cheekbones.
“You’re so lovely.” There was no mistaking the reverence in his voice.
Strands of her hair stuck to her cheek and lips. He gently pulled them away and off her face. When said thumb touched the corner of her mouth, she pressed a kiss to its pad, stealing his breath. As she gazed up at him, her expression open and trusting, he knew he’d do everything in his power to ensure he was never again the cause of her tears.
She encircled his wrist with her hand, parted her lips and—God help him!—he was unable to resist her.
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A former criminal defense attorney, Tracey Livesay finds crafting believable happily ever afters slightly more challenging than protecting our constitutional rights, but she’s never regretted following her heart instead of her law degree. She has been featured in Entertainment Weekly, The Washington Post and on CBS This Morning. Tracey lives in Virginia with her husband–who she met on the very first day of law school–and their three children. When not answering the call of wife, mother or author, she runs marathons and daydreams about designer purses.
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