A Not So Perfect Past


2010 RITA® Award Winner!

Harlequin Superromance – April 2009

ISBN: 978-037315565

Everyone makes mistakes…but he isn’t looking for redemption

He’s the most dangerous man she’s ever met…

Nina Carlson knows all about Dillon Ward. Knows he served time in prison. Knows nobody pulled out the welcome mat when he moved to Serenity Springs. But that doesn’t stop her from renting him a place to live. And when someone crashes into her bakery, he’s just the man to fix the damage.

And Nina isn’t the only one who thinks Dillon’s the perfect man for the job: her two kids have taken a shine to him. Still, she can’t afford to get close to Dillon, even if he is tempting her to toss out her good girl shoes. Because it’s not that she doesn’t trust him. It’s that she doesn’t trust herself.

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“So you…you did feel that way?” she asked hesitantly. “You didn’t care if you lived or…”

“Died?” He unhooked his tool belt and set it on the floor next to his thermos–instead of throwing it against the wall like he wanted. “I wasn’t suicidal if that’s what you mean. But being in prison…it takes something from you.”

She nodded. “Your freedom.”

“That’s sort of the whole point about prison, isn’t it?”

Her frown deepened. “It seems so unfair. You were protecting your sister–”

“I killed a man,” he said, slamming the heavy lid to his lock box shut. Bitterness filled his mouth. “I don’t need anyone to sugarcoat it or to forget it. I sure as hell won’t.”

“It just seems like you were given a…a harsher sentence than you deserved.”

He stabbed a hand through his hair. Couldn’t she just shut up? He hated talking about his past more than he hated remembering it. “I paid for my crime. But don’t think for a moment that I got more than what I deserved just so you can feel better about letting an ex-convict work for you.”

“That wasn’t what I was doing.” She laid her hand on his forearm. His skin tingled under her soft fingertips. “I just…wanted you to know I’m sorry. For what you went through.”

And the last thing he wanted was her sympathy.

Unsure of his motives, only knowing he hated that she looked at him with such pity, he edged closer to her. He could kick his own ass for inadvertently exposing so much of himself. Pieces meant to stay hidden.

Pieces he’d never share with anyone.

“You feeling sorry for me, cupcake?” he asked and she visibly stiffened, either from him calling her cupcake or his closeness, he wasn’t sure. But she didn’t step back. “I could use that, couldn’t I?”

“Use what?” Her voice was husky, her expression wary.

Warmth pooled in his gut but he ignored it. Just as he ignored the little voice inside his head telling him this wasn’t a smart idea.

“I could use that big heart of yours against you. I could play on your sympathy.”

“Why would you do something like that?”

He skimmed a finger down her soft cheek. His pulse skipped a beat. “So I could feel your skin. Get close to you,” he continued, as he laid his hands on her waist and slowly drew her to him. Their thighs brushed, her breasts grazed his chest. He bit back a groan. “To see how you fit against me.”

She gasped, a soft sound that did nothing to cool the heat racing through him.

“I don’t want your pity,” he said gruffly, still unwilling, or unable, to admit his defeat and let her go. “It won’t do me any good. Not now.”

Her fingers curled into his shirt. “What do you want?”

He leaned forward a few inches. Allowed his gaze to drop to her mouth before meeting her eyes. “I want you to remember that everything you’ve ever heard about me was true.” His fingers tightened on her waist. “I really am the most dangerous guy you’ll ever know.”