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In The Hunt for Cinderella series finale by USA TODAY bestselling author Allison Leigh, a surprise pregnancy takes things to the next level...
Shea Weatherby doesn't believe in fairy-tale endings, especially after watching her mother have so many of them with so many different husbands! So when Shea's Prince Charming comes along, she's skeptical. When she gets pregnant after a one-night stand with said Prince Charming, she panics.
Paxton Merrick made millions crafting custom yachts for Seattle's überwealthy. But now, with Shea, his very own ship has come in. If his futile efforts to get her to be his Valentine are any indication, there are stormy seas ahead. But he'll do anything to get Shea to the altar when he finds out he's going to be a father!
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A frequent name on bestseller lists, Allison Leigh's highpoint as a writer is hearing from readers that they laughed, cried or lost sleep while reading her books. She’s blessed with an immensely patient family who doesn’t mind (much) her time spent at her computer and who gives her the kind of love she wants her readers to share in every page. Stay in touch at www.allisonleigh.com and @allisonleighbks.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
She blamed the entire thing on the shirt. His shirt, to be precise.
Everything would have been fine, if he'd just kept it on.
But no. He had to go be the gentleman. He'd known she was soaked through. And with no electricity thanks to the ice storm that had blanketed Seattle with hardly any warning, she also had been freezing.
So he'd given her a towel, threadbare as it was, to dry off as best she could.
And then he'd given her his shirt.
Really, that's when all the trouble started.
That's when she'd obviously lost every bit of common sense that she'd ever possessed.
What else could possibly explain the fact that she was now lying on a pile of cushions on the floor of Merrick &
Sullivan Yachting with Paxton Merrick's sinewy arm over her waist, his big palm cupping her breast as if he had every right to do so?
Shea Weatherby chewed the inside of her lip as she lay motionless in hopes that he wouldn't wake up.
It was morning. Sunlight was filling the room. The wind that had howled and screamed and driven her into his office in the first place in search of shelter when her car wouldn't start was now silent. She couldn't see out the windows without turning over, though, and that was something she didn't want to do.
Because it would mean turning toward Pax too.
Bad enough she could feel the heat of his body burning down every inch of her backside. Because she'd obviously lost her head after the whole shirt-offering incident, she clearly couldn't be trusted to look at his infernally attractive face or other...body parts.
She closed her eyes against the sunshine, wondering how on earth she'd be able to salvage some dignity here.
She'd known Pax for well over two years. Had been regularly turning down his flirtatious overtures for just as long. But all it took was one night, stuck together because her bank account couldn't extend itself yet to replace her old junker of a car once and for all, and she'd tumbled like a house of cards.
He'd loaned her his shirt to wear when she'd been soaked. He'd wrapped his arms around her and kept her warm when the electricity had gone out because of the storm. And when, heaven help her, she'd tasted the brush of his lips.
She wasn't even sure who'd kissed who first, and Shea was more than a little afraid it had been her.
She curled her fingers into the cushion and blocked off the thoughts. Tried to, at least. It was hard, when her body still felt sated and warm and-might as well just admit it-more relaxed than it had been in years.
And more satisfied than ever, period.
Again, she shushed the voice inside her head.
She knew she should be grateful that Pax had been here at the leasing office at all. He spent a lot more time at the company's actual boat works location farther up the shore near the bridge than he did here, at the office that overlooked the marina where the sailboats they leased out were moored. If he hadn't been here, she'd have been stuck sitting inside her car that refused to start and riding out the ice storm because she'd had no way of getting back inside Cornelia's building next door once she'd let herself out. Shea had just started working for the woman a week ago and hadn't wanted the responsibility of an office key when she'd been offered one. By the time the storm had struck yesterday afternoon, everyone else in the office had already left before the roads became impassable, leaving Shea to fend for herself.
She squelched a sigh and opened her eyes again.
Pax had dragged the cushions they were lying on from the boxy, wooden chairs that were scattered around the airy office interior. They were thick and square and covered with a nautical stripe, and though they didn't make an ideal bed, they were better than sleeping on the hardwood floor. It had been either the cushions, or curl up on a desktop. He'd also found a canvas tarp for them to use as a blanket and a few stubby candles that he'd stuck in mismatched coffee mugs to give them a little light.
Her gaze went from one of the de-cushioned chairs to the round table that sat in the center of the room. A showroom, she supposed it could be called, because-aside from the chairs-the only other piece of furniture was that round table, with a massive, wooden model of a sailing sloop displayed on top of it.
Pax and his partner, Erik Sullivan, built boats. Big, beautiful custom sailing yachts that looked like poetry in the water. Both men were single. Both numbingly good-looking. They were part of the yachting world and all that that entailed-money and the "beautiful people." But they both had an interest in the welfare of their community, which was how Shea had come to meet Pax in the first place while covering a story for her newspaper, The Seattle Washtub.
It'd just been a human interest thing. Local boys made good-very good-by sharing their wealth with a group of kids. Didn't hurt that those local boys were single, extremely attractive and millionaires.
She grimaced and shifted restlessly, and the second that she did, Pax's thumb moved, brushing slowly over her nipple, which traitorously tightened and ached for more. She froze. Waited for another movement from him and wished that she could say that she dreaded one.
But that would be a monumental lie after what they'd already done. What her tightening nerves suggested would be a smashingly good thing to do again.
Shea prided herself on being practical. On being honest with herself. She knew perfectly well that nothing good ever came out of lying to herself.
Or out of weaving dreams from a slanted, sexy smile.
Been there. Done that. And had earned nothing but heartache as a result.
Pax's thumb stroked her again. "You're thinking too much." His voice was deep and rumbling and ridiculously appealing as his fingers slid over her, moving with the delicate precision of a musician.
She slammed a lid over her romantic notions and focused hard on the base of the table a few feet away from her nose. "I'm not thinking anything at all."
He shifted, bending his knee into the crook of hers. Every inch of her skin from knee to neck felt singed by him, and there was no mistaking the fact that he was well and truly awake. "I can feel you thinking," he murmured. "And it'd be much more fun if we just settled on the feeling."
If she really were thinking, she would have found some way to resist him. She wouldn't be yearning, even now, to feel him moving possessively over her. Again.
She steeled herself against the seductive warmth sliding through her veins and rolled onto her back, looking up at him.
At the best of times, Pax was impossibly handsome.
At the worst of times, like now, he was even more so.
It was just something about that whole unshaven look, whiskers blurring the hewn angle of his long jaw and wavy brown hair tumbling down over his dark brown eyes.
She fought the urge to drool a little and ruthlessly slapped her palm against his chest, shoving him away as she scrambled from beneath the canvas. "This was a mistake."
He propped his rumpled head on his hand, managing to look amused and sexier than ever in one fell swoop. As if he knew good and well that she was just as hot for him as he apparently was for her. Or maybe that was simply his usual state whenever he wakened on a cold office floor covered in nautical canvas.
"You weren't saying that earlier." His lips stretched into his familiar, lazy smile. "I definitely remember things like...more." His voice dropped. "More."
The problem was that she did want more.
Which was a bad thing. Capital B. Capital T.
"I'm not saying it now." Goose bumps crawled over her skin as she moved around the model. She snatched her sweater off the boat's bow where he'd hung it to dry and wondered if it had ever been draped with female items of clothing before.
Knowing Pax, it probably had. The man seemed to have his own set of groupies. Every time she'd done a story- and there had been eight of them now, featuring him or his partner, Erik-he'd been surrounded by beautiful women.
She dragged the damp knit over her head and was glad that it reached her thighs. She'd left her wet bra in the bathroom when she'd changed into Pax's dry shirt, and she was pretty certain that her panties were bunched somewhere under that canvas with him and that darned shirt of his.
She was also pretty sure that now was not the time to go hunting for them.
Instead, she yanked her corduroy pants up her legs, wincing at their cold dampness, and headed to the windows that overlooked the deserted street fronting the ancient brick building.
Her traitorous little economy car was still parked in front. She could see the icicles dripping from the bumper like Christmas decorations. She hoped it wasn't going to cost a fortune to fix whatever had gone wrong this time. Her bank account had just now stopped gasping for air thanks to starting her part-time gig next door for Cornelia.
"How does it look out there?"
"Frozen." She didn't let her gaze linger on him any longer than necessary when she turned away from the icy sight. She already knew he was the exact opposite of icy.
The room was cold. Her clothes uncomfortably damp. But warming herself with him again was absolutely out of the question.
She didn't have one-night stands. She didn't have stands, period. Repeating that mistake was not going to happen.
She picked up the three coffee mugs and set them on the table next to the sloop. "I'd kill for a cup of hot coffee." Better to focus on a craving for caffeine than a craving for him.
"The swill here is stone cold and gonna stay that way until the power is restored." He was sitting up with the canvas wrapped around his shoulders. He ought to have looked silly. He didn't. "We've got the rest of those sal-tines Ruth kept around, and that's about it."
Her mouth was watering. Unfortunately, it was not for the package of stale crackers that his secretary had left behind before going out on maternity leave.
She shoved her hand through her hair, pulling it back from her face. It felt like a rat's nest to her, but that hadn't stopped him from twining his fingers through it earlier.
Her stomach gave an excited swoop and she swallowed hard, escaping to the restroom. Flipping the light switch in the small room yielded no results, but there was at least enough light from the high, narrow window to see by. The tiled room was clean and neat, and Shea wanted to hide out there as long as possible, but it was too cold. Her bra was just as damp as the rest of her clothes and she balled it up as best she could and shoved it in her pants pocket, unable to face adding yet another damp layer against her skin. She used the toilet, washed her hands in cold water, cringed at her bedraggled reflection in the mirror and reluctantly returned to the reception area.
Pax had shed the canvas blanket and pulled on his jeans. He'd left the top button unfastened.
Her gaze lollygagged over the hard ridges of his abdomen, and she felt her cheeks flushing when her eyes finally reached his.
Definitely, she blamed it all on his shirt.
He was grinning slightly, as if he knew exactly what she'd been thinking, and then he leaned over to pick up the white button-down offender from the floor.
"I need to get home," she announced, her voice abrupt and too loud. "My cat is sick."
He straightened, smiling outright. "That's an excuse I haven't heard before."
"Marsha-Marsha," she prattled, hating the nervousness bubbling up inside her as much as she hated that weird feeling in her stomach whenever she looked at him. "She's sixteen years old. I, um, I have to give her antibiotics right now."
The amusement in his dark brown eyes turned to something else. Something softer. Something unexpected. He pulled on his shirt. "How long have you had her?"
She managed to look away from him and focused on the wooden model ship sitting on the table. She didn't know much about boats, but the gleaming structure looked like it belonged in an art museum. "Since she was a kitten. My, um, my stepfather Ken gave her to me." Ken had been number three in the line of her mother's seven marriages. He was long gone now, but Marsha-Marsha was still here.
"Well, then," Pax said, as if the decision were easy. "You need to get home."
Her car hadn't started the day before. She doubted sitting in a storm gathering ice would have cured its ills. "You think the buses are running again?" Everything had ground to a halt the afternoon before.
His smile was immediate. "Doesn't matter if they are or aren't. As long as the roads are passable, I'll get you home."
Again with the swoop inside her.
She shook it off. "I live on the far side of Fremont," she warned. Her apartment wasn't exactly right around the corner. "I know."
She studied him for a moment. "I don't remember telling you where I lived." Their conversations, outside of any interviews he'd given her, were lightheaded in the extreme, usually ending with him suggesting that her life wouldn't be complete if she didn't go out with him. He'd invited her out for everything from coffee to a sail around the world.
She'd never once taken him seriously. It was simply part of his genetic makeup to flirt with women.
"Just because you get paid to ask questions doesn't mean you're the only person who ever does." His voice was dry.
"Who'd you ask about me? Mrs. Hunt?" She couldn't imagine the very elegant, uberwealthy Cornelia Hunt gossiping about anyone, even with the ridiculously charming Paxton Merrick. But then again, Shea could hardly imagine Cornelia's unusual business venture either, despite having been a witness to its very birth. The woman had no need to ever work because she was married to one of the richest men in the country, yet she'd set up shop to help women succeed in business even when many of them didn't realize they needed help. And now Shea was a minor contributor because Cornelia had hired her part-time to conduct background checks on her prospective clients. At least she took Shea's investigative abilities seriously, whereas her boss at the Washtub didn't.
"You've got an editor at the Tub," Pax said, as if he'd been reading her mind.
"Harvey Hightower is an ornery old coot who doesn't do anything for anyone unless he's getting something out of it." He called Shea "cupcake" and wouldn't assign her to anything but puff pieces and gossip, no matter how hard or loudly she begged. Didn't even matter that the twiceweekly independent operated on a shoestring budget. He'd rather pay a "serious" journalist for the "harder" stuff than let Shea stretch her wings. He'd decided she was good at human interest stories and that's where she'd been stuck ever since she'd started working there after college. But Harvey did love anything to do with Pax and his boatbuilding partner because the readers loved anything to do with Pax and his boat-building partner. Who was to say that he wouldn't have answered any question Pax asked?
She huffed. "You're an irritating man."
He laughed softly. "Glad to know I'm finally having some effect."
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