Pushing the Limits is LIVE!

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Synopsis

He’s my art professor.

I’m his student.

With an electric connection and undeniable chemistry, I know it won’t be long until one of us cracks.

When the opportunity arises to pose naked for the entire art class, I can’t help the thrill of knowing he’ll be watching me.

While they all look past me with their eyes narrowed and concentrated, drawing only the lines and angles of my body, he sees right through me down to my vulnerability.

He sees more than just the physical aspects—he sees me.

That’s when I see the struggle in his features as he tries to stay in control.

How do we keep our distance when everything seems to be pulling us together?

What feels so right can only go wrong if we keep pushing the limits.

8-4 TEASER

Excerpt

PROLOGUE

ASPEN

I step inside the doorway, immediately hit with the mixed aroma of mildew and lavender from all the flower arrangements. I narrow my eyes, trying to adjust to the dim lighting. It’s eerily quiet, the service not due to begin for another hour.

My mother was hysterical all night long, crying in her room. I heard her through the bedroom door, but I didn’t go to her. I couldn’t.

I know she blames me.

Mom hadn’t said a word to me all morning, so I asked my older brother, Aaron, to take me early. I want to see Ariel before everyone else starts arriving. See her one last time.

I walk down the short hallway and into the room her service is being held in. Chairs are all lined up perfectly, row by row. The room will probably fill up quickly of family and friends, all coming to give their condolences.

I swallow as I step closer, her casket already open. I notice faint music playing overhead through the speakers. It’s meant to sound soft and soothing, but I don’t know how anything can soothe away the ache burning in my chest.

I glance around and notice the walls look as if they were painted a hundred years ago. The faded beige carpet is almost nonexistent. Flowers surround her on one side and a table of vanilla scented candles on the other. Nothing in this whole room represents her except the collage board of pictures she had hanging in our room. She made it two summers ago and had been adding pictures of her friends and us ever since. It captures every part of her personality.

We lived on farmland with only fields surrounding us. No neighbors or friends to play with meant we’d learned to entertain ourselves. I remember the day she got a new camera for Christmas and immediately started taking pictures—of everything. We’d giggle and snap pictures of each other, torment Aaron and take his picture when his girlfriend was over, and take about a hundred pictures of our pets. I smile at the memories but at the same time feel like crying because now there won’t be anymore. The memories we’ve made the last fourteen years are all I have left of her.

When Pastor Jay asked us to bring in our favorite pictures of her, I knew immediately she’d want these. I step closer and examine them, even though I’ve looked at it every single day for the past two years. Somehow today, it looks different.

There’s the one of us standing in front of the middle school on our first day of seventh grade. We were assigned different homerooms and weren’t happy about being apart. Another one shows us with our dog, Fudge, the first day we brought him home from the shelter. We’ve only had him for six months now. He was a rescue and she said she knew he was the perfect fit for our family.

After tracing the lines of each picture, I slowly walk to her casket. I pleaded with my mom to let her wear her favorite purple dress, but she refused. She said it was an ‘occasion’ dress, AKA—a happy occasion. Instead, she picked out a dark, navy blue dress that she absolutely loathed wearing. My lip curls up on one side thinking how much she’d hate wearing this dress right now. She hated wearing dresses in general, but now, oh she’d be so pissed. Part of me wants to laugh at the irony and the other part wants to rip it off her and sneak the purple dress on.

I glance down at her, curling my fingers tightly around the edge of her casket. She looks flawless, almost like she’s just sleeping. Even looking at her right now, seeing that she isn’t breathing anymore, it hasn’t all sunk in.

For the first time in days, I let myself cry. I cry harder than I ever have, I’ve held the tears in, trying to remain strong for Mom, but I can’t do it anymore. I release all the pain I’ve kept inside and apologize to her over and over.

“I’m so sorry, Ari. God, I’m so, so sorry.” I blink, wiping my cheeks off. “You hated that nickname,” I say, letting out a short laugh. I exhale a deep sigh. “I’m going to miss you so much,” I whisper, reaching for her hand. “I’m going to miss you sneaking in my bed and sleeping with me every time a storm hit. I’m going to miss staying up late on weekends, gossiping about Brady Carmichael and all the guys on the basketball team. Or the girls who think purple lipstick is in.” I chuckle softly to myself. “I’m even going to miss arguing with you over who gets to use the shower first. It was like our little tradition, I guess.” My lips soften, curling up on both sides at the happy memories. “Truthfully, I’m going to miss everything about you.” I lean down and kiss the top of her forehead. “I love you.”

I hear footsteps in the hall and take that as my cue to start heading out. People will be arriving soon, and I’m not quite sure I’m strong enough to deal with everyone. Half feel sorry for me and the other half blame me.

I’m not sure which one is worse.

“Aspen…” I hear my dad’s deep voice. I turn and face him, his lips set in a firm line, his eyes as empty as I feel right now. “Your mother wants to talk to you.”

I swallow at his tense features, but nod and follow him out of the room. He’s barely speaks or looks at me now. I’m only a constant reminder of what happened—of who he’s lost—of how our lives are forever changed.

He leads me to a small room on the other side of the hall where she’s sitting with her nose buried in a handkerchief.

I stand in front of her and wait. I’m not sure what to say to my mom right now—or anyone for that matter. I’m not sure there’s anything I can say.

“I need to hear the story one more time,” she chokes out. “I need to hear why my baby girl is dead.”

Her head is low and she refuses to look at me. I’ve told her and the police the story several times already, but every day since the incident she’s demanded to hear it again.

“Mom…” I begin, my eyes filling up again. “I can’t. Not again.”

“Tell me!” She raises her voice, finally tilting her head to look up at me. Her face contorted in a mixture of grief and disgust.

I do as she says. I repeat the story the same exact way I did the first dozen times. No matter how much it hurts to talk about, I explain what happened.

“How could you let that happen?” she mumbles. “How could you be so careless? I just don’t understand!”

“Mom, it’s not Aspen’s fault…” Aaron interrupts, stepping next to me.

“Mama, I’m sorry,” I burst out through a new wave of tears. I’ve apologized to her and Daddy over and over. But I know they’ll never forgive me.

I’ll never forgive me.

Aaron wraps an arm around my shoulders and cradles me to his chest. I hear my mom huff in disapproval. I push against his chest, wiping the tears off my cheeks as I storm off.

I’ll never forget the way her eyes widened in fear as she fell to her death. The way her body lay on the ground, motionless. The way her voice begged for my help as she screamed on the way down.

I’ll never forget.

I don’t tell Mom and Dad those things though. The images already haunt me in my sleep. The sound of her screaming has woken me up the past two nights. Every time I attempt to fall asleep, her dead eyes appear in my mind. It’s no use, I tell myself. There’s barely a difference between existing and sleeping now.

Life without her is pointless.

People start arriving, so Mom, Dad, Aaron, and I all stand in the front near her casket. I swallow my emotions down and refuse to cry. I shut down. I shut everything down. I let them hug me and say how sorry they are for our loss. I let them cradle my head as they press me against their chests. I let them squeeze my hands as they tell me how much she will be missed. I let them do whatever they need to express their feelings. But I don’t cry. I quietly thank them and look down at my feet.

When the service is over, we gather at the cemetery to bury her. A large bouquet of white lilies rests on her closed casket. I step forward and pull one out for myself before they lower her in the ground. Mom and Dad do the same, but they don’t look at me. Dad wraps his arm around her shoulders, holding her close as she cries.

I grip the obituary program tightly in my hand and stare down at her picture displayed on the cover. Mom used her most recent school photo from this past year, although it hadn’t been her favorite. I don’t know why though, she looked stunning as usual—bright smile, sparkling green eyes, and flowing golden blonde hair.

Underneath it reads, Loving Daughter and Sister. Gone too soon, but never forgotten. 4-10-1995 to 4–10-2009.

She died on our birthday.

I swallow as I take it all in. April tenth was our favorite day. We’d wake up early to Mom making us our favorite breakfast—the only day of the year she’d make it—Belgian waffles with melted cream cheese frosting drizzled on top and then slathered in homemade maple syrup. She used fresh blueberries—instead of frozen—on top. She called it our special birthday breakfast and every year we looked forward to it.

After breakfast, we’d rip our presents open from our parents and later on exchange the ones we made for each other. For the last few years, we’d talk Mom into letting us skip school for the day. She wouldn’t even bother arguing with us, knowing she’d eventually cave anyway. So when we woke up on our birthday five days ago, we’d done everything the exact same.

We laughed all through breakfast. Mom was going on and on about how she couldn’t believe how grown up her baby girls were getting and how old that made her feel. Aaron was three years older than us, but apparently he was born out of wedlock and didn’t count in her aging process.

After we finished eating, Mom handed us each a card and watched as we ripped them open. We both squealed when we saw the hundred-dollar bill tucked inside.

As we wrapped our arms around her, she lectured us. “Don’t spend it all in one place, girls!” We then begged her to take us to the mall so we could of course spend it on clothes and makeup.

“You’ll have to wait until your father gets back,” she said, piling the dishes into the sink. We ran upstairs and got dressed, setting our money down on the dresser and running back outside. It was warm for April, just a slight breeze in the air.

It was perfect.

I smile at the memory of our birthday traditions. It was something we’ve always shared. Should have shared forever.

She’d always tease me about how she was older, granted it was only by three minutes, but now the day would be pointless.

A painful reminder of what happened.

Of what I lost.

8-23 PTL

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About the author

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Brooke Cumberland is a USA Today Bestselling author who’s a stay-at-home mom and writes full-time. She lives in the frozen tundra of Packer Nation with her husband, 4 year old wild child, and two teenage stepsons. When she’s not writing, you can find her reading love stories, listening to music that inspires her, and laughing with her family. Brooke is addicted to Starbucks coffee, leggings, and anything sweet. She found her passion for telling stories during winter break one year in grad school and she hasn’t stopped since.

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Dangerous Temptations Bonus/Deleted Scene

Only read this if you’ve read Dangerous Temptations! Also, this is unedited!

The Night Before

The night was cool, even for New York, but I loved it. It made me feel alive. The crisp wind sent a chill down my body, but I welcomed it. I wore a strapless silver cocktail dress and bright red heels. The shoes matched my lips, which of course was on purpose. I never went out without properly coordinating my outfits, otherwise The New York Post would label me as an unfit ‘queen’.

It was sickening really, but I fell for it. I kept my hair and nails properly groomed, I hired a trainer for four days a week to keep my “killer body” in tact, and never ate more than twelve hundred calories a day. My days consisted of blogging at a fashion magazine and my nights were spent inside my New York penthouse with my fiancé.

Tonight—I was just Mackenzie. I’d let loose, dance, and forget about the consequences. Fuck the magazines and the paparazzi for their stupid accusations. I promised Brittainy tonight was about her. The bride-to-be.

We arrived to Club Le Bain in a sleek, black limo. We started drinking hours ago before we even had dinner, but now we were ready to dance.

“Oohhhhh! Bachelorette in the house!” Ella screamed, dragging us all behind her. “Move…move!” She was almost six feet tall of pure mocha gorgeousness. Her long, black hair and body of a model earned our way inside.

Brittainy was dressed in a bachelorette sash, Princess Crown, and “Kiss Me, I’m the Bride” buttons, which let everyone in the club know we were partying hard tonight. If that didn’t give it away, the half dozen penis straws attached to her shirt would.

“I hate you!” Brittainy squealed as we finally made our way to a bar table. She laughed as she grabbed a straw and began chewing on it. She had made us promise not to make her dress up, but I couldn’t help it. It was cheesy and cliché, so I had to.

“You love me!” I shouted back over the music. “You look hot!”

“Whatever,” she slurred, smiling and giggling like the drunken fool she was. “We need drinks!” she screamed much too loud.

“On it!” Ella yelled, waving her hand back at us as she walked to the bar. Knowing her, she’d come back with a tray full of free shots and shooters.

“Let’s go dance!” Staci begged, pulling on Brittainy’s arm. “I wanna dance,” she whined. Brittainy gave in and the both of them took off. I stood with our other friend, Katie, who wasn’t exactly my biggest fan.

“Aren’t you gonna dance?” she asked, looking unimpressed.

“I need another drink first,” I explained. I wasn’t shy, but I needed the buzz. I wanted to let loose and be carefree. Just for tonight.

Ella returned with a tray full of drinks I couldn’t name. We each took two shots, one after the other.

“Here, try this,” Ella insisted.

“What is it?”

“It’s awesome, just trust me, Mac!” I heard over the music. I shrugged my shoulders and took the drink. It tasted fruity and sweet—delicious.

“So good!” My hips began bumping with the music, my body relaxing and finally ready to hit the floor. “Let’s go dance now!”

Ella and Katie followed behind, some techno remix blaring through the speakers. “What the hell is this shit?” Ella asked, her lips turned down in disgust.

“I don’t know,” I answered. “Just go with it!” I smiled at her, hoping she’d finally relax for once.

Brittainy and Staci found us, both of them completely wasted and crazy. I moved by body toward them, putting my hands on Staci’s shoulder to steady myself. The music changed and we continued dancing.

“I need a drink!” Brittainy announced, but I stayed behind. I felt good, and I didn’t want to waste the buzz I was feeling.

As I continued dancing, I felt strong hands behind me. They crept to my hips, moving and grinding behind me. I kept swaying, inviting the stranger to dance with me.

“I couldn’t help myself. You just looked so gorgeous dancing all by yourself over here.” His voice was husky, low. His breath was hot against my neck, sending a shiver down to my toes.

I smiled to myself since he couldn’t see me. I responded with inching my body closer to his, feeling his chest to my back. He was built from what I could tell. His chest hard, and his arms toned. They engulfed me, pressing against my body in a securing gesture.

We danced to the music, one hand moved to my arm, rubbing up and down in an affectionate matter. It was oddly comforting, his gestures were sweet but secure.

“What’s your name?” He dipped his head down, pressing his lips against the flesh of my ear. My body tingled with how close his mouth was. His entire body was cemented to mine, and I had yet to see his face.

“Mac,” I answered, turning my head slightly so he could hear me. “What’s yours?”

He spun me around, his hands securely gripping my upper arms. My eyes opened wide to see him but the lights were dim and the dancing of colored lights moved in a quick rhythm. I could partially see him—his jawline and his mouth. His eyes were hooded, not giving me a good view of them. His hair was short on the sides and longer on top, but I couldn’t see which color. Everything was dark.

“Alex,” he finally responded. His lips turned up into a handsome grin, giving me a full view of his perfectly straight teeth. I didn’t know what to say, so I just stared at him, letting the alcohol swim in my veins. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mac.”

One hand continued gripping my arm, while the other strolled down to my hip. He squeezed gently, waking me up from my trance.

“It’s nice to meet you, too, Alex.” I smiled, feeling like we were the only two in the entire club. The music silenced, the other dancers faded, and soon my vision only zoomed in on this enticing stranger.

“Can I buy you a drink?” He leaned in again, close to my ear. It was so deep, soothing almost as the silk of his voice vibrated against the warmth of my skin. Butterflies consumed my stomach at the way my body was responding to him. It was innocent really, but the way his lips lingered was a sure sign that it wouldn’t stay that way.

“Sure,” I answered anyway. My body felt hypnotized, stunned by the affect this stranger was stirring in me.

His hand ran down my arm until it reached my hand. He linked our fingers together as he guided us up to the bar. I nervously looked around for my friends, wondering if they were still at the same table we had been at.

“What’s your poison?” he asked playfully, leaning one arm against the bar top. I stood in front of him, getting a much better visual of his face. His jawline was firm and strong, but it didn’t match the rest of him. He had one of those soft baby faces, the ones that look like they never age. His eyes were brown from what I could now see and his hair was a dark shade of blonde. He was every girl’s wet fantasy, but he couldn’t be mine.

“I’ll take a Cranberry Vodka.”

“A girl who can drink her liquor…” His lips curved up in one of the sexiest smirks I’ve ever seen. His lips were thin, but delicious looking. “I like that.”

“I’m sure you do.” I smirked back, enjoying the attention he was giving me. He could easily have a dozen other girls in this club.

“Actually…” He inched his head down lower, almost whispering. “I don’t really go out much. I just flew back into New York. I was actually supposed to meet a friend and apparently they blew me off.”

That surprised me. He looked like a guy who went out every weekend, at least.

“Is that what you tell all the girls?” I mocked.

He laughed, brushing his hand through his hair lightly. He grabbed the drinks from the bartender and threw a twenty on the bar. “No, it’s the truth.” He smiled. “I saw you earlier standing at the table with your friends. You were laughing and smiling…you looked so carefree and full of life. I find that a very attractive quality in a woman.”

His confession took me off guard, but I didn’t want to give him the wrong idea. I wasn’t an easy lay, and I wasn’t into one-night stands.

“All right,” I lingered, circling my straw in my glass. “Well, I haven’t been out in months. It’s my friend’s bachelorette party actually.”

“Really?” His eyes roamed over my body, admiring the way my dress squeezed my curves. “You seem like a girl that likes to have fun…often.”

“Well, you know what they say about accusations…” I grinned, gripping the straw between my lips. I leaned in, whispering inches away from his mouth. “Unfortunate disappointments.”

“I’d be willing to bet my first born that you would be anything but a disappointment, sweetheart.” His voice stayed deep, firm. His eyes embedded into mine, letting me know exactly what he was after.

“Well, get ready to lose that bet.” I smiled confidently. “I need to get back to my friend before she thinks I ditched her.”

“Ahh…the nice blow off…” His eyes held mine, daring me to leave.

“I’m not blowing you off,” I insisted. “It’s just…it’s a girl’s night,” I explained.

“Oh, girl’s night…” He let the words out easily in understanding. “Well, if you get lonely and decide to make it a fun night, you’ll know where to find me.” He winked, gripping my elbow in his palm. He pulled me forward and pressed his lips to my cheek. “Enjoy your evening, Mac.” Tingles riveted throughout my entire body—a sensation I hadn’t felt in months. It was uncanny for someone I just met.

“Thanks…you too.” I finally managed to say. I found Ella finally and took off with my Vodka Cranberry in my hand.

“Giiiiiirl…who was that and does he have a twin?” She arched her body to look around me, getting a full view of Mr. Gorgeous in the flesh.

“I don’t know…” I laughed. “Stop it. We aren’t here to find hook ups. We’re here to celebrate Brittainy’s last time out as a single woman!” I screamed, finally gaining her attention. She was totally wasted, swaying her hips and hair back and forth.

“I can’t believe she’s getting married!” Ella screamed back. None of us do actually.

Brittainy was what you’d call a Prom Queen. She had high goals, unfathomable standards for boyfriends, and only wore the best designers. She was high maintenance with excellent taste. But the thing about her was that she never acted better than you—she was a blend of southern girl meets city life. She was always popular in high school and college, always dated the jocks, and always looked flawless—that’s how she really got her nickname.

She also wasn’t known for her long-term relationships. Oliver was her longest at eleven months before he proposed. He knew he had a good thing when he finally convinced her to say yes to their first date. It didn’t take him long to put a ring on it and keep her for himself. I’m only surprised she said ‘yes.’

“Let’s go back out and dance!” Katie suggested. I had to make a double take to ensure I was hearing her right. Apparently, alcohol made her nice.

I sucked down the rest of my drink and set it on a nearby table before following them back out. The burn of the alcohol lingered in my throat as I was dragged to the center of the floor.

It’d been awhile since I had a night out drinking and it was fully consuming my blood and veins. My head began spinning, matching the fast-paced tempo of the music.

I wasn’t sure how long we’d been dancing before I felt his hands on me. I smiled as I smelled his blend of alcohol and soap. I inhaled it, taking it all it as I allowed his hands to fall on me again. I should’ve turned around and pushed him away, but something in me wanted him to stay. That something wasn’t thinking with a clear mind.

His hands were on my hips and soon glided upward just under my breasts. I shivered the closer we got. He was gorgeous and sweet, and fuck—could he dance. I felt his arousal against the small of my back. It wouldn’t have been obvious just by looking at him, but since there was nothing in between us, I could feel every part of him—every chiseled muscle and hot breath that floated around me. It was exhilarating, and I couldn’t stop myself.

“You’ve been driving me wild making me watch you dance like this…I couldn’t help myself.”

His mouth was on my neck, feathering kisses up to my ear as he whispered. His voice was deep, almost a growl as I felt him smell my skin. “God, Mac. There’s something that about you that captivates me…”

I turned my head so he could hear me as I responded, “It’s called the alcohol effect.” I giggled. “Or what is it men call it? Beer Goggles?”

I felt him relax against me, laughing. “I suppose that’s a term college guys would use. But that’s not it in this case,” he tried to reassure me. Not that I doubted him. I did go all out in looking my best tonight. I went out with the only intention of celebrating Brittainy’s upcoming nuptials.

“What is it you want from me?” I asked bluntly. I needed to know, because I was not about to lead this guy on. He seemed almost too good to be true and the last thing I wanted to do was send out the wrong message.

“Well, if I’m being honest, which I almost always are…I want you. I want your sweaty body underneath me, against me. I want your eyes to look up into mine as I lay above you, fucking you hard and fast.” My body quivered, jerking at his blunt response. “I want to feel how tight your pussy is, how wet you are for me. I want to suck on your tits as I hear you scream my name, because holy hell, imagining you do that would be so damn sexy.” I swallowed hard as I wrapped my brain around his words—words I hadn’t heard in so long. “I told you I was honest,” he whispered into my ear again.

I wasn’t sure how to respond, but the alcohol took over for me.

I spun around and locked my arms around his neck. He looked at me, took me in. His mouth was firm, tense as I analyzed his facial features and how delicious he looked. My body felt on fire, burning and aching in between my legs as I repeating his words in my mind.

Why did his words have an affect on me? I wasn’t supposed to let someone else say those things to me, touch me, and beg me. I craved it—his words, the look he was giving me—my body was craving it all and it didn’t make any sense to me.

“Stop,” he said firmly, gaining my attention back. “Stop overthinking, Mac. What’s your body telling you?”

I sucked in a breath, too embarrassed to tell him. “I don’t know.”

His lips curved up into a devilish smirk. “You’re a horrible liar, Mac.” He pulled me in closer, our chests colliding. The top of my head reached just under his chin, making our eyes disconnect.

“How do you know?” I asked. I was only vaguely aware that we were in fact not alone. The music and dancing bodies surrounded us, but it didn’t feel that way. I was on high alert of every word he said and every movement his body made.

He grabbed my chin and tilted it so we were eye-level again. He brushed the pad of his thumb over my jaw as he said, “Because I’m good at reading body language. Your body’s hot. You haven’t stopped blushing since you’ve met me, and I can smell your arousal from up here. Your nipples are hard and peaking out from this thin material you call a dress. Your eyes are tense, as is your mouth. Your body can’t stop trembling and every time you speak, small moans escape your throat. Your body is fucking begging for it, Mac.”

I swallowed again, shocked and embarrassed. He read me like a damn book, feeling everything I was trying to hide.

I needed to find out for myself.

“Kiss me,” I said. “Kiss me right now.”

Both of his hands cupped my face, nearly covering it completely with the size of them. My breath hitched as he covered my mouth with his, pressing his lips to mine. They were soft, warm like honey. I grabbed a hold of his wrists, clenching to him as his kiss sparked my entire body. I felt high, as if this feeling wasn’t natural, yet it was overtaking my entire body.

His tongue met mine, dancing in a rhythm as we stood in the middle of the dance floor. His kiss consumed me, taking charge of my entire body. He increased his pace, deepening his desire as I held on for everything he was giving me.

I felt a jolt of energy strike through me as our mouths collided, both panting with heavy breaths and heated air.

He tasted like bourbon, oaky and sweet. His cologne wasn’t overbearing, but being this close, I could smell the musky scent mixed with the alcohol and the clean smell of his soap. Our bodies were meshed into one big body of hands and mouths.

And now I couldn’t stop. One taste and I wanted it. Wanted him.

Dangerous Temptations Release Day Blitz!

DTBanner
6c0d2-synopsis
One night was all it took…
One night to ruin everything I thought I knew.
From the outside, I had the perfect lifestyle.
Wealthy fiancé, blossoming career, amazing friends.
I wasn’t looking to get married yet, but when William—“Manhattan’s royalty”—charmed his way into my life, I couldn’t deny the security and comfort that overcame me.
To society, I was the girl only after his money. I was the party-goer who managed to seduce a man twice my age to have the lifestyle some could only dream of. I was every magazine’s cliché of what a gold-digging whore was.
I wanted to prove them wrong—that our love was real and that I wasn’t that girl.
But then everything changed.
One wrong decision. One unfaithful night. One haunting reality.
Perhaps they were right.
The media didn’t see it coming…and neither did I.
**This is a stand alone romance suspense novel with no cliffhanger. HEA depends on who you ask.**
Recommended for readers 18 and up due to strong language and explicit sexual content.

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1de41-excerpt

“How long do you plan to act like this?” His question shocked me, my body jerking in response.

“Act like what?” I turned around, narrowing my brows in disapproval.

“That you despise me,” he said bluntly.

I thought about his question for a moment, realizing this was probably just as hard on him as it was on me, but he was the one acting like an arrogant jerk.

“I wouldn’t have to if you’d stop trying to cross boundaries with me when you know it’s inappropriate.”

“Inappropriate?” He laughed, pissing me off more. “Good god, it’s like you’re a Stepford Wife.”

“You know what I mean.”

“You mean…that I’m tempting you? That I’m giving you something more to desire?” He took a step toward me, caging me in with his arms around me. I stepped back as far as I could before hitting the back of the sink. “If you didn’t feel it too, there’d be no issue. But I know for a fact you do.”

I swallowed, hating that he was right, but it didn’t mean anything. It couldn’t.

“Just because your technique—“ I waved a finger between us, “—normally works for other girls, doesn’t mean it’s going to work on me.”

He furrowed his brows and asked, “And what technique would that be?”

“Getting what you want, who you want.” I pushed against his chest, needing the space. “You’re not used to girls saying ‘no’ to you. You use your name, your father’s popularity to gain respect, and truthfully, it’s a little pathetic,” I snapped, the courage I’d felt quickly left as his eyes darkened, getting more intense.

He leaned into me and shot back, “Do you see any other girls here?”

“Give it time.” I held my ground as best I could. His face that close to mine was making it almost impossible to think straight.

He laughed in my face, a deep, throaty laugh that came out as if he was amused by my antics. “If it’s on the Internet, it must be true, right?”

I had looked him up late last night when sleep wouldn’t come to me. Although I tried, wanting—needing—to forget that whole day, it just wasn’t happening. Most of the stories were from his teenage and early college years, there hadn’t been anything recent, but I used it against him anyway.

“Isn’t that the way the game works?”

“I don’t know what game you’re playing, sweetheart, but I know what you felt when you kissed me. You feel what I feel and there’s no denying that.”

His eyes looked into mine, confident and tense as I stared back. “It doesn’t matter, Alex. It’s never going to lead to anything, so you should just stop trying.”

“And what if I don’t?”

“You’re just wasting your time.”

“I’m willing to bet I’m not, but if you want to be delusional, fine with me.” He pressed his chest against me and brought his face closer to mine. “I wasn’t sorry for what we did, Mac. I’ll never be sorry for that. I’m only sorry you felt guilty about it afterward.”

“If you cared about me at all like you claim, you’d back off, Alex.”

He huffed in an amused laughter. “That’s one thing you should learn about me, Mac. I don’t back off on something I want.” He gripped my chin with his thumb. “I was trying to get you out of my mind, and I failed miserably. The only thing I want from you isyou. I don’t need to parade you around like a little trophy wife or show you off to my friends. Once you see that, you’ll change your mind.” He dropped his hand and stepped back, walking away with the last word. It didn’t matter anyway, I had nothing left to say.

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Brooke Cumberland is a USA Today Bestselling author who’s a stay-at-home mom and writes full-time. She lives in the frozen tundra of Packer Nation with her husband, 4 year old wild child, and two teenage stepsons. When she’s not writing, you can find her reading love stories, listening to music that inspires her, and laughing with her family. Brooke is addicted to Starbucks coffee, leggings, and anything sweet. She found her passion for telling stories during winter break one year in grad school–and she hasn’t stopped since.
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