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Crashing into Love
Love in Bloom Series
This is a work of fiction. The events and characters described herein are imaginary and are not intended to refer to specific places or living persons. The opinions expressed in this manuscript are solely the opinions of the author and do not represent the opinions or thoughts of the publisher. The author has represented and warranted full ownership and/or legal right to publish all the materials in this book.
CRASHING INTO LOVE
All Rights Reserved.
Copyright © 2015 Melissa Foster
This book may not be reproduced, transmitted, or stored in whole or in part by any means, including graphic, electronic, or mechanical without the express written consent of the publisher except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
Cover Design: Natasha Brown
WORLD LITERARY PRESS
PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
A Note to Readers
Loyal, wealthy, and wickedly naughty, that’s the definition of our Bradens, and Jake Braden will not disappoint. But he’s a little different from our other Braden men, and I hope you enjoy his journey for love. Jake’s a broken man, though he doesn’t realize it. Fiona Steele knows her man, even if he doesn’t want her to. It’s love like this, love that weathers heartache and finds its way back into the heart, that makes writing such a challenge and a joy. I hope you love Jake and Fiona as much as I do.
Jake’s story is the last story in our second family of Bradens, but don’t worry—we have more hot, wealthy, and wickedly naughty Bradens in the works! Coming soon, the East Coast Braden cousins!
If this is your first Braden book, then you have a whole series of loyal, sexy, and wickedly naughty Bradens to catch up on, as well as several other hot heroes and heroines. You might enjoy starting with SISTERS IN LOVE, the first of the Love in Bloom series. The characters from each series (Snow Sisters, The Bradens, The Remingtons, and Seaside Summers) make appearances in future books.
For my readers
Thank you for inspiring me on a daily basis and for
loving our heroes and heroines as much as I do
PRAISE FOR MELISSA FOSTER
“Contemporary romance at its hottest. Each Braden sibling left me craving the next. Sensual, sexy, and satisfying, the Braden series is a captivating blend of the dance between lust, love, and life.”
—Bestselling author Keri Nola, LMHC
(on The Bradens)
“[LOVERS AT HEART] Foster’s tale of stubborn yet persistent love takes us on a heartbreaking and soul-searing journey.”
“Smart, uplifting, and beautifully layered.
I couldn’t put it down!”
—National bestselling author Jane Porter
(on SISTERS IN LOVE)
“Steamy love scenes, emotionally charged drama, and a family-driven story make this the perfect story for any romance reader.”
—Midwest Book Review (on SISTERS IN BLOOM)
“HAVE NO SHAME is a powerful testimony to love and the progressive, logical evolution of social consciousness, with an outcome that readers will find engrossing, unexpected, and ultimately eye-opening.”
—Midwest Book Review
“TRACES OF KARA is psychological suspense at its best, weaving a tight-knit plot, unrelenting action, and tense moments that don’t let up and ending in a fiery, unpredictable revelation.”
—Midwest Book Review
“[MEGAN’S WAY] A wonderful, warm, and thought-provoking story...a deep and moving book that speaks to men as well as women, and I urge you all to put it on your reading list.”
“[CHASING AMANDA] Secrets make this tale outstanding.”
“COME BACK TO ME is a hauntingly beautiful love story set against the backdrop of betrayal in a broken world.”
—Bestselling author Sue Harrison
Table of Contents
Catching Cassidy Excerpt - Chapter One
Game of Love Excerpt - Chapter One
IT WAS SUPPOSED to be a quick trip to her hometown of Trusty, Colorado. A few days of hanging out with her parents and catching up with old friends, and then she was off to Los Angeles to meet up with her best friend, Trish Ryder. At least that’s what Fiona told anyone who asked—other than Trish, or Fiona’s sister, Shea, of course.
Fiona tipped her margarita back and finished it off, thinking about how surreal it had been the night Trish had called her to say that she’d been cast as the lead female in the upcoming action film Raiders of the Past. Trish was going to be working with the most famous director in the country, Steven Hileberg. It was one of the biggest events in her acting career to date, aside from the nomination for the Academy Award last year, and she and Fiona had celebrated with a virtual party for two via Skype. That was four months ago, which to Fiona felt like forever, given how Trish’s career opportunity had unlocked a door Fiona had spent years trying to figure out how to open. It had taken Trish exactly ten words to convince Fiona to take a leave of absence from her job as a geologist at the Bureau of Mines and Geology and become her personal assistant during filming.
Jake Braden is cast as the stuntman for Zane Walker.
“Sis, are you even paying attention to me?” Shea was four years younger than Fiona, and the youngest member of the Steele family. She was as fair as Fiona and her twin brother, Finn, were dark. Shea was also Trish’s public-relations rep. Fiona and Trish had met in college, and by the time Trish needed a PR rep for her career, Shea had become well-known in the industry. Fiona had been thrilled with their instant connection.
“Of course.” Fiona tossed her chin, sending her long brown hair over her shoulder, and held up her empty glass, indicating to the waiter that she needed a refill.
“Sure you were. Then, what do you think?” Shea blinked her baby blues expectantly.
Fiona winced. She hadn’t meant to zone out, but she’d come to the Brewery, a local bar, hoping to see her ex-boyfriend Jake, who she knew was in town visiting his family, and he was nowhere in sight. Her stomach had been tied in knots for the past two hours she’d been watching the door, as if she could will him to walk into the bar. She was sure that when Jake finally came face-to-face with her, he wouldn’t be able to resist her. Their connection had been too deep, their love too strong, and their passion had always left them both craving more.
“Just as I thought.” Shea leaned across the table, her shiny golden locks curtaining her face. “He’s. Not. Coming.”
Fiona rolled her eyes. “That would be just my luck, wouldn’t it?”
“Finn called me yesterday,” Shea said.
“What’s my evil twin up to?
” Finn was anything but evil, but their family had always joked that one of them had to be more evil than the other. Fiona had dubbed Finn the evil twin. She didn’t even know how to be evil—not that he was any better at it.
“Not much. He was visiting Reggie in New York, and when I told them that you were going to finally try to reconnect with Jake, Reggie got all big brotherish and said he was going to check him out. Whatever that means in the world of private investigators,” Shea said with a laugh. Reggie was their eldest brother, and a private investigator.
Fiona rolled her eyes. “I’ll be surprised if Reggie doesn’t call Jesse and Brent, just to add a little torture to the next few weeks. As if I’m not nervous enough.” Jesse and Brent were younger than Fiona, and they were also twins. Reggie, Jesse, and Brent could be overpoweringly protective. She was glad to have Shea to buffer her in this situation. But Finn had a softer touch, and she wasn’t surprised he’d called Shea instead of her.
“Don’t worry. I told him to call off the dogs. He knows you don’t need hounding right now. I’ve got your back.”
“Thanks, Shea. Do you think there will ever come a time when our brothers aren’t looking out for us?” She was just waiting for Jesse and Brent, to get wind of her going to LA. She half expected them to hire a bodyguard for her.
“No way. I think when a brother is born, they come with protective genes, and we sisters are born with big tattoos on our heads that only brothers can see, which read, Oh my. I’m a girl. Help me. Help me!” Shea laughed.
The waiter brought Fiona’s drink. She thanked him and gulped half of it down. Margaritas served two purposes: They alleviated the ability to focus and provided a false sense of courage. She didn’t need alcohol to hinder her ability to focus. The mere thought of Jake took care of that. But she desperately needed the liquid courage.
“The one time I get up the guts to finally try to talk to my ex, he decides not to go out for a beer. Jake always goes out with his brothers when he’s home.” Fiona had been trying to figure out how to reach out to Jake for the last few years, but Trusty was so small, it was impossible not to realize he avoided her every time he was home. Fear of rejection had kept her at bay, but with the trip to his movie set in hand, she felt like it was now or never. She was finally taking the risk, despite the possibility of being rejected.
“Have you considered that maybe he heard you were going to be here and decided to skip it? This is Trusty, Colorado, where gossip spreads faster than chicken pox.” Shea finished her drink and sat back, eyeing the men in the bar. “You have a great life, Fiona. And I know you have your pick of men back in Fresno. Besides…” Shea eyed the guys at the bar. “There are plenty of good-looking guys here.”
Fiona glared at her. From an outsider’s perspective, her life probably did look pretty damn good, and in some ways it was. Taking a leave of absence to try to reconnect with Jake had been an easy decision when she’d made it, because she’d made it from her heart, completely ignoring her brilliant brain, which was waving red flags and urging her to remember why she worked so hard in her profession and what she was working toward. For a girl who loved geology more than shopping, Fiona’s job was exciting as hell. And her social life…Well, her social life probably looked good, too, from the outside. Trish was a great best friend, and they got together as often as their schedules allowed. Shea split her time between Colorado, Los Angeles, and New York, so they also saw each other fairly often. And while Fiona was asked out a few times each month, she’d gone out on only the occasional date. And she couldn’t really count the invitations, considering that for the last two years she’d turned down all but a few. She guessed that most girls would kill to be asked out by some of the scientists who had tried to woo her. They were well educated, well mannered, and, well, stable. Boring. Why was it so hard to find a real man? The kind who could make her go damp with one hot stare and had hands and a talented mouth that could finish the job. The kind of man who took what he wanted and liked a woman to do the same.
Shea held her hands up in surrender. “I know. I know. You’re done sowing your oats and wasting time. There’s only Jake Braden. Jake, Jake, Jake.”
Exactly. Jake Braden is the only man I want.
Shea lowered her voice. “Fi, it’s been sixteen years since you dated him. Sixteen years. And rumor has it, he’s not the guy he used to be. You broke him, and you broke him bad.”
Like she didn’t know that? Fiona and Jake had dated for two years in high school and had planned to attend the same college, and then they were going to get married. Her life had been planned in a nice, neat package. She’d had every girl’s dream at her fingertips. Jake had been attentive and loving, and he wasn’t the least bit afraid of commitment. The Bradens were a loyal and kind family, and Fiona knew her life with Jake would have been stable and adoring. Jake would have followed his dream of becoming a stuntman, and Fiona would become a geologist, and they’d have lived happily ever after.
That was the plan.
Reality wasn’t quite as pretty.
On her mother’s insistent advice, Fiona had ended things with Jake two weeks before they were set to leave for college. She’d taken off for Penn State the morning after breaking up with him, unwilling to stick around for two weeks for fear of giving in to his pleas of staying together—and to see what she was missing. While Jake was hundreds of miles away, she’d buried herself in a new life, which included working her ass off to maintain good grades, sowing her wild oats—which was a ridiculous notion, because she had none—and finally, securing her graduate degree. It wasn’t until a few years later, after her career was settled and she slowed down long enough to breathe, that she realized the enormity of her mistake. She hadn’t been missing a damn thing. Jake was all she really needed.
And now here she was on a Tuesday evening, back where she’d ended things with him so long ago, wishing she could go back in time.
“Well, Shea. Maybe it’s time I put him back together.”
ALL JAKE WANTED was a cold beer and to hang with his brothers. They were all in town for the wedding of their youngest brother, Luke. He and his wife, Daisy, had taken off for their honeymoon yesterday. Jake had another week before he was expected on set for his next movie production. He’d given in to family pressure and had agreed to stick around to help his brothers Wes and Ross fix the roof on Wes’s shed instead of heading back to LA for what would have been a week of partying. Being back in Trusty made him anxious. He loved his family, but the town was about as big as his thumb, and he’d spent a decade and a half avoiding Fiona Steele. He knew from friends that Fiona was in town, and he didn’t need to run into her tonight.
Tonight it was just the guys. Their sister, Emily, had brought her fiancé, Dae Bray, to Luke’s wedding. She and their mother, along with their brothers’ fiancées, were going to Ross and Elisabeth’s house for a girls’ night, freeing up Dae and Jake’s brothers for a guys’ night out. He didn’t give a rat’s ass where they went as long as they didn’t run into her.
“Emily said she heard Fiona was going to Fingers in Allure, so we’re cool.” Wes grabbed Jake’s arm and dragged him across the driveway toward their eldest brother Pierce’s rental car, where Ross stood by the open door.
“Come on. It’s not every day we get to have a beer together.” Pierce lived in Reno with his fiancée, Rebecca. Ross, Wes, Emily, and Luke lived in Trusty, and Jake lived in Los Angeles. Nights out with his brothers were indeed a rare occasion.
“Fine, but I’ll take my car. Come on, Dae. You can ride with me.” Jake climbed into the driver’s seat of his rental Lexus SUV. He wanted to hang out with Dae and get to know him a little better anyway, and as long as Fiona wasn’t going to be at the bar, then he was cool with it. God knew he needed a drink—or six—after watching his siblings nuzzle up to their significant others all weekend. He loved them all, but he could take only so much of that lovey-dovey shit before he lost his mind. Give him a blonde under each arm and he was a happy dude.<b
A few minutes later Jake pushed through the front doors of the Brewery with one arm slung around Wes’s neck as he ground his knuckle into the top of his brother’s head. He pushed Wes away with a loud laugh. Wes smacked him on the back and pointed to the bar.
Music filled the air from the country band playing in the back. As the five men crossed the crowded floor to the bar, Jake spotted at least three hot babes he wouldn’t mind taking home for an hour or two. That was, if he were back home on his estate in LA. Picking up women in Trusty posed issues. He’d have to go to their place, which was good for a quick escape, but it was Trusty, which meant he’d leave a buffet for the hungry rumor mill in his wake. And Jake had no interest in feeding that frenzy.
He wouldn’t be going home with anyone but his brothers tonight.
Pierce ordered a round of beers and made a toast. “To Luke and Daisy.”
They clinked bottles, and Jake sucked down half of his. A hot blonde with hungry eyes standing on the other side of Ross leaned forward and caught Jake’s eye. He cracked his most effective panty-dropping smile and checked her out. Even if he had no intention of hooking up with her, a little eye candy was never a bad thing. Not too skinny, nice rack, and…He leaned back and checked out the rear view. Nice ass.
Ross grabbed his arm and turned his back to the blonde. “She’s been with half of the single guys in town.”
“Do I care?” Jake arched a brow.
“You sure as hell should.” Ross was the Trusty town veterinarian. He, like Jake and their other brothers, had never dated women from Trusty. It was easier to date women from neighboring towns and avoid the gossip.