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Fall Deep (Kinley Island #3)
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And then Landon Luna breaks right through my shell. He’s a whirling tornado of flirtation, blond hair, and irresistible lips. He’s a ray of sunshine in my lonely life, and I desperately need to keep him close. But he refuses to sign my contract. And now every time his lips touch mine, it’s dangerous. So why can’t I stop?
With a reporter following my every move, the pressure is on. I need to keep things locked down. Need to keep myself under control. But I also need Landon–body and soul.
And no matter the danger, no matter the risk, I get what I want.
But then I meet Alex Aldridge. Alex is everything I’ve daydreamed about since boyhood–wicked hot, brooding, and secretly passionate as hell. He’s an heir to a technology empire, but behind all his money, he’s got an ocean of secrets. Like the fact that he’s into men. And the fact that he wants me.
There’s just one catch: Alex forbids me from telling a single soul that I’m seeing him. And he offers me an exorbitant sum of money to ensure my silence. The offer stings–but the thought of losing him hurts even more. Because after falling into bed with him, I’ve started falling in love.
I’ve never been good at secrets.
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I should have known that I was going to get dumped.
I should have smelled it in the air from miles away, blowing in the breeze from Seattle. The slow, wafting odor of another guy losing interest in me before we’d even been together for a month. I should have sensed that my cell phone was just minutes away of dropping another text message breakup in my face, each glowing pixel another reminder that I was no one’s idea of perfect.
But instead I was in the diner, chatting happily with my sister Lindsay, blissfully unaware of my impending descent back to singlehood. The trees that lined the street outside the big front windows were just starting to change from green to gold and red, and I’d already had multiple customers ask if we made a pumpkin spice lattes this week. Fall was finally here, and I had a boyfriend. That was all I needed: the promise of walks in the crisp air, holding Carter’s hand as leaves crunched under our feet, planning whose house we’d end up at on Thanksgiving.
As far as I was concerned, I was on cloud nine.
Lindsay was sitting on one of the baby blue leather stools across from me at the front counter of the diner, half-reading a beat up paperback as she watched me work. I was putting the finishing touches on a vibrant green and purple monster truck themed birthday cake.
“Landon, it’s done,” she said, eyeing the cake, raising one eyebrow.
“It’s not perfect yet,” I said, furrowing my brow as I leaned in close, smoothing out the side of the cake with an offset spatula. “I’m the pastry chef, not you.”
“I don’t have to be a pastry cook to know this cake is for a six-year-old,” she said. “The kids will devour it in under three minutes. They’ll probably descend upon it and tear it apart with their bare hands and use it as face paint. Nobody’s going to be inspecting the icing.”
“If I’m making a cake, I’m doing it right,” I said, adding a microscopic amount of extra green icing to the upper border.
She leaned back, gathering her long blonde hair in a messy bun before picking her book back up. She was a middle school teacher, and I swore she was sitting there peering over the pages and deciding what grade she’d give my cake decorating skills. She was only a couple of years older, but treated me like the hapless baby brother I had always been to her.
“You could stand to be a little less anal about your desserts,” she finally said. “And a little more anal about everything else.”
“Please don’t use the word anal in the same sentence as talking about my cakes. Unless you somehow found a man who wants to be covered in whipped cream for me, and will let me lick it off, and preferably he will look like Tom Hiddleston—”
She held up a hand. “Stop, stop. I don’t need to hear about what you’re into. But… maybe think about setting the spatula down? It looks good enough. Really.”
“Okay, fine, fine,” I said. But my eyes remained on the cake. Already I’d noticed three sections of the outer layer that probably needed to be re-iced.
Lindsay was saying what everybody else did. I’d heard it my whole life: Landon, your head is in the clouds. Landon, don’t you care about anything other than your art? Landon, are you late again because you saw a pretty ray of light hitting a tulip in a garden a specific way?
They were all right. I didn’t care about much other than my art—painting, foremost, and in recent years, baking. I was airheaded in every other aspect of my life, but at least I always knew that my paintings had won awards, and the crumb of my pie crust was always completely perfect.
I wasn’t good at anything else.
Well, other than developing hopeless, all-consuming crushes on men and pining after those men, either in real life or in my imagination.
I could always focus on a crush.
I maybe even, kind of, sort of fell in love with any guy who gave me attention. I’d briefly fallen in love with a cashier at the gas station two weeks ago, just because he’d smiled and said he liked my shirt.
But in recent years, I’d also fallen for a guy who cheated on me, over and over, with my former best friend. And then there was the guy who once raised his hand to hit me, after the billionth fight about me forgetting to take out the trash, or switch his laundry to the dryer, or who the hell knows what. I’d gotten away from him before anything serious happened, but it didn’t change the fact that shame seeped through me for having ever loved him at all.
And I’d also fallen for a good handful of straight men, unavailable men, and men who didn’t want much to do with me.