I never realized when I began writing the Graysons of New Mexico that the series would begin with one publisher and continue with St. Martin's Press or that I'd develop a spin-off series titled Grayson Friends. After all, my idea was simple. Have a strong loving mother, Ruth Grayson, decide that her five children – four men and one woman – were dragging their feet getting married and decide to "help" each one from the oldest to the youngest find that one special person and the love of a lifetime. Ruth's deep love of her chilren, and theirs for her, is easily felt in each book. She's not being pushy with her plans for her children to marry, rather she simply wants each of them to feel and share the deep bond and love she had with their father who was lost in a plane crash when the oldest son was nine years old.
Of course, her children think they can outsmart their mother, and they make a pact to watch each other's back if they see one of them slipping. They know if one falls, the others won't be far behind. However, as Ruth said, "The day hasn't come that I can't outthink my children." She's right. She deftly manages to place in the path of each child that one person that their heart can't deny no matter how hard they try.
I had a lot of fun watching each of the Grayson siblings fall in love and prove that, in this case, their mother really does know what is best. However, along the way we meet friends and family members who need to find their soul-mate as well. Thus, the Grayson Friends series was born.
My original idea was to have seven books, but that number is now up to eleven. One reason for the increase was my desire to return to the closeness of the Grayson siblings, but this time they would be friends who were as close as brother and just as different. I lovingly refer to these books as the "Kiss trilogy" – a series within the Grayson Friends series. There's Alex (A SEDUCTIVE KISS) Stewart, an easy going, successful lawyer, C.J. (WITH JUST ONE KISS) Callahan, who owns a bar and has a quick temper, and Payton "Sin" (A DANGEROUS KISS) Sinclair, a gorgeous sports consultant, who, beneath the charm, carries a dangerous secret.
Here's a short excerpt of A DANGEROUS KISS, scheduled for release June 26th.
Payton “Sin” Sinclair was an unapologetic people-watcher. As a sports-consultant, working with some of the biggest and most recognizable athletes in the sports and the business industry, he had to be able to read the smallest nuances of the other person. That astute ability was just one of his unique attributes that set him apart from the competition and made him the go-to person when corporations wanted to align themselves with the top professional athletes in the country.
On a beautiful Sunday afternoon, Sin was sipping a nice vintage wine and helping celebrate the recently announced engagement of C.J. Callahan, one of his two best friends, in the lavish East Hampton home of C.J.’s elated parents. Just because Sin was standing with C.J. and Alex Stewart, Sin’s other best friend, and enjoying himself didn’t mean he’d stopped noticing the people around him, especially those he cared deeply about.
Since he’d long ago developed the ability to listen with one ear while observing – it was critical with so much going on at sports games – Sin listened to C.J. go on and on about what a great woman Cicely was and how lucky he was, while Sin watched Summer Radcliffe chat with a beaming Cicely St. John, C.J.’s fiancé, in the elegant, French-inspired great room.
The other woman with them was Dianne Harrington Stewart, the new wife of Alex. Dianne, a stunning long-legged former international fashion model, looked as happy as Cicely. On the other hand, Summer’s usual smile and vibrancy were noticeably missing…at least to him.
He’d first noticed Summer’s pensiveness when Dianne and Alex were dating and had an argument outside of C.J.’s bar, Callahan’s. Summer had completely stunned Sin by musing that, when Dianne and Alex settled their disagreement and kissed they would later have make-up sex.
Sin couldn’t get her startling comment out of his mind. It bothered him that he hadn’t been able to tell if she’d been wistful or frustrated. Not once in their long friendship had he ever heard her mention sex. Truthfully, it stunned him a bit that she had. She wasn’t the type of woman to take intimacy lightly or talk about it openly. Afterwards, she’d ignored his attempts to find out if the comment had been off-hand or something more, and had gone inside the bar to play pool with Dianne.
Sin traveled a great deal, but he hadn’t heard about Summer being in a relationship. Her cousin, C.J., was as protective of Summer as he was of his younger sister, Arial. After Summer’s parents’ death, she had gone to live with her mother’s only sibling, C.J.’s mother.
C.J. certainly would have mentioned it if Summer was serious about a man…if he had known. Lately C.J. had a full plate with Callahan Software, Callahan’s Bar, and Cicely. It disturbed Sin that some idiot might have slipped past C.J. Worse, that the idiot didn’t appreciate what a wonderful woman he had. Sin’s eyes narrowed dangerously. If he found out that was the case, he would take care of it himself. No one, absolutely no one, took advantage of Summer while he breathed.
From the moment they met when she was just out of high school and dealing with the death of her parents, he’d felt protective of her. Despite her tragic loss, she’d worked her butt off to make her parents’ dream of owning a successful upscale restaurant in Manhattan a reality. He admired her determination, loyalty and tenacity.
She hadn’t had it easy in life. Perhaps because he’d lost his father when he was eighteen, and she’d lost her parents at the same age, he felt a certain empathy and closeness with her. If at all possible, he was going to figure out what was bothering her and fix it. He didn’t like seeing a forced smile on her beautiful face.
At least he knew her pensiveness wasn’t due to the unfortunate incident that could have damaged the reputation of Radcliffe’s. It still angered the hell out of him that a woman he’d rebuffed had tried to get back at him by spreading viscous rumors about her restaurant. The spiteful socialite had seen him in the newspaper with his arm around Summer while she was catering at his suite at Yankee’s Stadium and drawn the wrong conclusion. Once he’d learned of the woman’s lies, he’d confronted her at a high-profile social function and warned her to admit the lies or suffer the consequences.
She’d caved and became the one gossiped about. For a while Summer hadn’t been too pleased with him, blaming the incident on him dating so many women. It had taken weeks for her to fully forgive him and their easy camaraderie to return. He’d do anything for them never to be at odds again.
A broad hand clasped Sin on the shoulder, breaking into his thoughts. He looked up into C.J.’s handsome, clean-shaven face which had always made him extremely popular with the women. “Thanks for being my best man.”
With his dark eyes twinkling in his bearded face, Sin tipped his wine glass toward C.J. Both men were over six feet, but while C.J. had the broad shoulders of a line backer, Sin was lean and muscular. “Thank me when I drag you away from the blow-out bachelor party Alex and I are going to give you so you can be at your best for your wedding.”
C.J.’s laughter was pure wickedness. “I might leave before then. I can’t wait for Cicely to be completely mine. She gave up her dream for me.”
The words were barely out of his mouth when his attention shifted to where the women were standing. Sin could tell by the rapt expression on C.J.’s face, he and Cicely had gotten lost in each other’s gaze again as they had done off-and-on since their arrival two hours ago. For them, everyone else in the elegantly decorated room had ceased to exist.
“I think we lost him,” Alex said with a burst of laughter. “Again.”
Alex, a successful Manhattan lawyer with a list of Who’s Who clients, as well as the people no one ever heard of but whose cases he took because he hated to see people screwed over – stood at a trim six-foot-two.
“I seem to recall you being the same way,” Sin reminded Alex. When Dianne wasn’t working at her and Alex’s fashion design house, D & A of New York, or Alex at work, they were usually together. Placing his champagne flute on the tray of a nearby waiter, Sin caught C.J.’s arm. “Let’s put him out of his misery.”
“Let’s.” Alex caught C.J.’s other arm and they led him to his waiting fiancé.
They were barely there when C.J. reached out and tenderly pulled Cicely into his arms and kissed her. “Happy?” C.J. asked.
“I’ve never been happier.” Cicely leaned into the shelter of C.J.’s six-foot-four frame, her head against his broad chest.
“I plan to keep you that way.” C.J. gave her another kiss.
Dianne walked into her husband’s open arms. While the newly engaged snuggled and the newly married looked on approvingly and did the same thing, Sin watched Summer. There was a smile on her striking face that was serene and restful, but there was also a hint of sadness in her dark chocolate eyes. The sparkle of happiness and teasing warmth that had unknowingly gotten him through a couple of rough days in the last four months wasn’t there.
Sin didn’t think; he just stepped forward and curved his arm around Summer’s slim waist. Her arm went around him without hesitation. They’d done this a thousand times, but he’d never felt as he did now – that there was a barrier between them that he couldn’t break through to comfort her. He didn’t like the feeling. At the moment, there were too many things in his personal life that were out of his control. He didn’t want to add another.
Sin felt the slight trembling of Summer’s slim body, and pulled her just the tiniest bit closer as he glanced down at her.
He saw what she undoubtedly wanted everyone to see, a beautifully poised and stylish woman in a white sheath that accentuated her shapely five-foot-five slim body to perfection. The coal black wavy hair that usually hung free and reached to the middle of her back was in some kind of intricate twist on top of her head. The upsweep made her slender neck appear vulnerable, her heart-shaped face more alluring. Any man would be proud to call her his.
“Looks like we’re the odd ones out,” Sin said, trying to tease her into smiling for real.
“Yes,” she said without looking at him.
Sin wondered if anyone else heard the tiniest tremble in her voice. He’d take her for a walk on the beach behind the estate as they’d done so many times after she’d lost her parents and in the years since, if he thought he’d get an answer. He wouldn’t. Summer could be as tight-lipped as the clams she served in Radcliffe’s, her five-star restaurant in upper Manhattan.
Stepping away from Sin, Summer plucked a flute from a nearby waiter’s tray. “I’d like to propose a toast to my cousin, C.J. and his fiancé and my friend, Cicely.” Summer kept her flute raised as C.J.’s sister, his brother and his wife, joined them. “To C.J. and Cicely, wishing you every happiness on your journey of forever together. May each day bring your closer, make your love stronger.”
“To C.J. and Cicely.” People chorused as the distinct click of crystal flutes sounded.
Sin drank his wine, but he never took his gaze from Summer. Her hand was steady, the sparkle finally back in her incredible eyes. Whatever it was had passed. While he was glad, he intended to find out what had put the sadness in her lovely face.
Sin was watching her.
In the past the knowledge that he was always there had given Summer a certain amount of comfort. At the moment, it made her want to squirm and hang her head.
And, unlike in the past, he was the last person she could talk to about the reason. At least the party was over.
Bidding her family and Cicely good-bye, Summer climbed inside the limousine Sin had hired to drive him, Alex, Dianne and her up to the Hamptons from New York. Scooting over, Summer kept the practiced smile on her face. What was the matter with her that she couldn’t move past this…this feeling that kept circling her and coming back to nip her on the backside no matter how much she fought it.
How could this have happened to her? It made no sense, but that didn’t change it or make it go away.
It had just snuck up on her when she hadn’t been looking or expecting it. Sin was one of her best friends. He wasn’t supposed to make her skin tingle, her body have the strong desire to lean closer, to brush her lips across his, to feel the softness of his beard against her cheek.
THE WAY YOU LOVE ME
NOBODY BUY YOU
ONE NIGHT WITH YOU
IT HAD TO BE YOU
A SEDUCTIVE KISS
WITH JUST ONE KISS
A DANGEROUS KISS
ALL I EVER WANTED
ALL I EVER NEEDED
ALL I EVER DESIRED