The Playboy Bachelor

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  To Kristin, Jill, Jessica,

  Liza, and Lauren—

  thank you for helping me NOT lose

  my mind with this book and

  making it amazing!


  I’m so thankful that I’m able to do something I love!

  God is so good and I’m in constant thanks every day that I get to wake up and write—something that literally keeps me up at night because I’m so excited to do it!

  My family, Nate, Thor—you guys are the best boys I could ask for. Nate, thank you for taking Thor when I need writing time and for helping me basically write every single book—and for letting me cry when I’m frustrated over a character NOT listening to me. You’re my sanity, my partner and such an amazing friend. I’m so happy that our son has you as an example!

  My editor, Amy—I feel like these books have really pushed me; thank you for not letting me settle and for making me a better writer!

  Erica—the best agent ever! I always look forward to our talks and I know these last few years have been nonstop. Thank you for always having my back and being such a wonderful friend. I know that my books are in the best hands—and I’m so thankful to have you in my life!

  Lauren Layne, aka wife, don’t you EVER lose your phone. I think we text more than anyone else I know—but it’s always completely necessary for my sanity—thanks to bae for letting me borrow her, and next time I’m in New York I expect whiskey.

  To Jill, my amazing PA/friend/sister/publicist/brain—you do all the things and I’d probably be lost rocking in a corner without you!

  Rockstars of Romance—thanks again for another incredible tour and blitz, you guys are always so on top of things. Lisa, you are so fun to work with and I’m so grateful for you!

  Liza, Kristin, Jessica, thank you for reading all of the words and not hating them, even when I text you early in the morning and go, Have you read the chapter yet? Does it suck?

  Angie, Dannae, Heather, mi familia ;) Love you girls so hard!

  And all the Rockin’ Readers. Guys, seriously, we have the best group on Facebook. It’s like family and I love you guys so much! Thank you for always encouraging me and helping me with my projects!

  Finally to all the readers, bloggers, and the amazing people who allow me to do what I love. Thank you for reading. You have no idea how much I appreciate your loyalty!

  If you want to be kept in the loop with all of my releases, text MAFIA to 66866 and you’ll automatically be signed up for my newsletter!


  Phoenix, Arizona

  Summer 2006

  Margot tried not to stare at him.

  Then again, so did every other girl at the country club.

  With a smug smile, she sat back into her deck chair while a loud splash sounded to her right. At least twenty people were at the barbecue, laughing, eating, swimming.

  And then there was Margot.


  She peeked over the edge of her book one more time.

  At least she promised herself it would only be one more time.

  Her best friend loved the attention.

  She hated it.

  Maybe that was why they worked?

  She read, and Bentley basically charmed the world with his smile and that small dimple near the right side of his mouth.

  Her stomach fluttered.

  She really needed to stop thinking about his smile, because that almost always meant she’d start thinking about his perfect lean physique and perfect hair.

  Everyone was under his spell—herself included, which just made it that much worse.

  They were friends.

  Best friends.

  Nothing more.

  “Are you even reading that?” Brant said as he plopped down next to her. Bentley’s twin was equally attractive, but for some reason it was always easier for her to talk to him. Maybe because he never made her feel like there could be something more.

  His stares never lingered like Bentley’s.

  Ugh. Maybe she’d been reading into things too much lately.

  “I’m totally reading.” She swallowed the lie and stole another glance at Bentley.

  His deep laughter rang out and then his searching eyes found hers, locked on to her with an intensity that had her heart pounding and her stomach in her throat.

  “You should tell him,” Brant said under his breath, as Bentley made his way over to them.

  She feigned ignorance. “Tell him what?”

  “That you’re in love with him.”

  “I’m not.”

  “Are too.”


  “—Good luck!” He winked, gave her a playful pat on the head, and sauntered off in the direction of his brother. They did a weird head-nod thing, which looked way cooler than it should have, before Bentley finally stopped in front of her.

  She cleared her throat and pretended to be reading her novel—the exact same page she’d been on since the minute Bentley Wellington had walked outside with all the arrogance in the world. He wore his confidence well.

  Just breathe.

  Breathe, stupid!

  In through your nose.

  Out through your mouth.

  He was her best friend, for crying out loud! She knew how to have a normal human conversation with him without passing out.

  Why then did it suddenly feel different?


  Yup, her romance novels really were starting to alter her sense of reality.

  “Hey, Margot.”

  Lips trembling in a nervous smile, Margot glanced up and managed to squeak out, “Hey, there.”

  Hey? There?

  She inwardly groaned while Bentley chuckled low in his throat and pulled up a chair next to her.

  Around them, the annual Fourth of July barbecue for the country club both of their families belonged to continued as though her world hadn’t just been tilted on its axis by his proximity.

  The barbecue was a forced tradition that had gotten worse over the years, mainly because everyone around her seemed to be growing into their bodies, the girls with the beautiful, bouncing blond hair and perfectly toned arms and curved hips. The boys with their sensual lips, six-packs, and muscular arms.

  And then there was Margot.

  As if to prove a point, a piece of fire engine–red hair worked itself free of her bun and tumbled across her shoulder.

  Bentley’s eyes locked on the piece of hair, and before she could tuck it behind her ear, he reached out and rubbed it between his fingers.

  “I love your hair,” he whispered.

  Margot’s mouth gaped open as a searing heat surged through her and finally settled on her cheeks. “It’s my conditioner.”

  Kill me now. My conditioner? Really?

  Bentley smirked then dropped his hand. “Another romance novel? You’ve been devouring these things like chocolate lately.” He leaned in. “Is this your cry for help? Do you need a little romance in your life?”

  It was hard not to focus on the shaking in her hands or the fact that the only p
erson she wanted romance from was staring at her the way she’d always dreamed. “Sometimes fantasy is better than reality.”

  “You sure about that?” he fired back, scooting closer to her until their thighs touched.

  “You tell me.”

  His blue eyes lit up with surprise before suddenly focusing on something behind her.

  Within seconds, she knew why.

  “Jennifer.” Bentley smiled and his slow, appreciative perusal wasn’t lost on Margot as he finally stood and held out his hand. “How’s your summer?”

  “Horrible. My mom’s a bitch and I’m bored.” Jennifer stomped her heel into the ground and then glanced at Margot. “Oh, hi, Marg.”

  Marg. She hated that nickname.

  “Hey, Jenn—”

  “Ugh, did you know that I’m grounded after last night?” She smacked Bentley on the chest with her purse. “I hope it was worth it.”

  Rejection slammed into Margot so swift, so hard, that breathing was almost impossible.

  Last night?

  He’d been with Jennifer last night and now he was hitting on Margot?

  Bentley stiffened next to Margot and then gave a casual shrug as he stood and snaked an arm around Jennifer’s shoulders. “I’ll be more careful next time.”

  Next time.

  As in: There was going to be a next time.

  As in: Whatever had just taken place between them was nothing but another stolen moment where Margot’s hopes were crushed beneath Bentley’s expensive shoes.

  Tears burned.

  Margot refused to let them fall.

  “I’ll see you later, Red.” Bentley winked at Margot. “We’re still on for later, right? Your house or mine?”

  Huh? They hadn’t made plans.

  And by the look of it, Jennifer was pissed.

  Straightening a bit, Margot shrugged and said, “How about we go to yours this time?”

  Last weekend they’d spent two nights in a row watching a horror movie marathon—probably not the kind of marathon that Jennifer and Bentley had participated in, but Jennifer didn’t need to know the details. Right?

  “Cool, see ya!”

  She sighed longingly after Bentley and Jennifer.

  Her book was long forgotten.

  “So not a complete crash and burn, I take it?” Brant’s voice scared the crap out of her, and she nearly toppled out of her lounge chair. “I mean, you’re smiling way too big for it to be fake.” Brant made his way around the chair and sat again, crossing his arms.

  “No, in fact we’re hanging out later.”

  Brant’s smile fell. “Just be careful.”

  “Careful? He’s your brother and my best friend. Trust me, I know him.”

  “Not everything, though.” There was an edge of warning to Brant’s voice. “Just…be careful, that’s all I’m asking.”

  “Yeah, thanks, Dad. I’ll get right on that.”

  Brant pressed a hand to his chest. “Ouch.”

  They fell into fits of laughter as Margot’s grandmother’s voice rang out.

  “Margot!” her grandmother yelled from the door. “Margot!” She sounded frantic. “Margot!”

  Grandma almost teetered over into the pool as she made her way toward Margot and Brant. They shared a look before rushing to her side.

  “What happened?” Margot asked.

  Grandmother exhaled and then frowned.

  “Grandma, what’s wrong?”

  Her grandmother tugged at her pearl necklace and shook her head as she leaned heavily on Brant. “I need you to go retrieve your parents.” She handed Margot the keys to her brand-new Mercedes. “And don’t you worry a bit about me, I twisted my ankle. There was a hole.”

  That explained the hobbling. If there was a hole, Grandma would find it.

  Or a mailbox.

  Or a telephone pole.

  Or anything that resembled danger to her person. Her grandmother refused to wear the glasses she desperately needed; it was as simple as that.

  “Okay.” Margot nodded. It wasn’t like she was doing anything important other than lusting after a boy whose only fault was that he was too good-looking for words—and liked blondes.

  “I got her.” Brant smoothly led Grandma to a chair. “So, Mrs. McCleery, where was the hole?”

  Margot suppressed a smile. Brant, like Bentley, could charm anything with a pulse. Her grandmother was probably loving the attention.

  She tucked the book back in her purse and slowly made her way to the parking lot.

  It took ten minutes to get downtown, where her parents were already waiting outside their office building. They had been called away from the club to address an emergency at the office, and since Nadine Titus, an old family friend, was headed that way, she’d offered them a ride.

  “Hey, guys.” Margot unlocked the doors as her parents piled in the back. “Everything okay?”

  Her mom looked furious, her dad calm.

  “Fine,” they said in unison.

  Margot rolled her eyes. She loved her parents, she really did, but they rarely shared the burden of their work with her. They wanted her to be a regular teenager.

  Too bad that ship had sailed long ago. She was a redheaded book nerd who had only the Wellington twins as best friends and wouldn’t know what to do in a social situation if they weren’t with her, thus the book she’d brought today.

  She pulled out onto the road and glanced in the rearview mirror at her parents as they held hands and shared a kiss. Her mom looked up, and horror registered in her eyes as she screamed, “Margot! Watch out!”

  Everything went black.

  Chapter One

  Present Day

  Bentley groaned as the woman, whose name he’d already forgotten a few hours ago, spread her toned thighs over his body and rode him. The scent of her vanilla lotion clung to the air as he slid his hands up and down her hips.

  She was just another nameless face.

  Another willing female in a long list of women who wanted to have a piece of the notorious playboy Bentley Wellington.

  Because that was all he was to her—all he was to anyone. And most of the time? He was completely okay with it—he had to be. A familiar tightening threatened to choke him. He feigned boredom until he could get the unwanted emotion under control.

  And covered his fake yawn with his hand as she started to increase her speed, her breath coming out in small, fake pants.

  With a smug-as-hell smirk, he winked. “That the best you can do, Sarah?”

  “It’s Christine!” She smacked his chest and panted as she rode him harder, her skin slapping against his in a way that should have felt good but instead irritated the hell out of him. “You’re a complete asshole!”

  He gripped her hips and quickened her movements with deep thrusts. “But…” Another punishing thrust. “I’m a handsome asshole.” Her lips parted on a moan. “Right?”

  “The last thing you need,” she said in a breathy whisper, “is for me to stroke your ego.”

  “Aw.” He made a face and pulled free from her body. Bored. Angry that she was speaking. And maybe a little bit sick of himself if he was being completely honest. “Play fair. I’m always in the mood for a good stroking and a willing hand.”

  Her bright blue eyes flashed before she rolled off his sweaty body and out of the bed. “I’m leaving.”

  “That was fun,” he called after her. “We should do it again sometime.”

  She screamed in fury, and two minutes later he heard the door slam.

  Frowning, he sat up on his elbows. Whatever. Where one left, there were at least a hundred waiting in line for a glimpse or even just one small taste of what he had to offer.

  His sexual appetite was huge—and legendary. His twin, Brant, was better at relationships—or at least he had been until the incident that had pushed him into a drunken state that even Bentley hadn’t been able to pull him out of.

  But unlike his twin, Bentley hated anything that sounded long-term. Bes
ides, the last real relationship he’d had hadn’t ended well.

  He gulped as a memory of red hair flashed in his line of vision. Sometimes it felt like she was still sitting next to him, teasing him, touching him.

  It didn’t matter anymore.

  What was done was done.

  Besides, she was a long-term girl.



  Like a contract he would never be able to get out of. And the last thing he needed was to allow someone in—someone who would want to share all his burdens or, worse, ask questions.

  The door opened again and clicked shut.

  “Back for more?” He chuckled and pulled the covers over his naked body, waiting for whatever her name was to come back in and finish the job she’d started. Damn it, he could have sworn her name really was Sarah.

  He snapped his fingers. No, no, Sarah was the night before. Amazing mouth. Jet-black hair.

  He hardened again just thinking about how she’d used her long silky hair to—

  A shadowy figure stomped toward his bedside with clenched teeth and a furious look in his eyes. “Shouldn’t you be on your way?”

  “My way?” Bentley repeated, fisting the sheets with his hands. His grandfather was a giant pain in the ass. “To hell?” Another nonchalant shrug, because that was what his grandfather was used to. The youngest twin by a few seconds, the one who would never amount to anything—not for lack of trying.

  “Don’t be a jackass.” His grandfather’s mouth twisted into a disapproving frown.

  “Prudence McCleery spent ten thousand dollars for your services.” Grandfather’s voice sounded calm, but he was still clenching his fists and his cheeks flashed red. “Today is the day you were supposed to arrive at their country estate and make good on your promise.”

  “Right.” Bentley hadn’t forgotten. How could he, when he’d been nearly scarred for life two weeks ago as every rich and single woman in the greater Phoenix area had bid on him? In an effort to help save his lovesick brother and the woman he loved, he’d agreed to participate in the bachelor auction their grandfather was convinced would save the face of the family business. The stockholders had needed a reason to need the Wellingtons, and Bentley and his brothers had given them a damned good one.

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