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He's raising the stakes—one kiss at a time...
After a nasty divorce, Maitlyn Boudreaux is ready to reclaim her sensuality and rediscover her inner wild child. A luxury cruise to exotic ports of call is just what the New Orleans negotiator needs...and meeting Zak Sayed on board could be an added bonus. The high-stakes poker player wants the same thing she does: a sizzling hot fling with no strings attached.
A brilliant entrepreneur and professional gambler, Zak is one of the world's most sought-after bachelors. But beneath the playboy facade is a guy who's playing for keeps. The passionate eldest daughter of the Boudreaux clan is the soul mate he's been searching for.... Even as a ruthless business adversary threatens to destroy everything Zak cherishes most, can he convince Maitlyn to take the biggest gamble of all?
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Deborah Fletcher Mello has been writing since forever and can’t imagine herself doing anything else. Her first romance novel, Take Me to Heart, earned her a 2004 Romance Slam Jam nomination for Best New Author, and in 2009, she won an RT Reviewer’s Choice Award for her ninth novel, Tame a Wild Stallion. Born and raised in Connecticut, Deborah now considers home to be wherever the moment moves her.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Maitly n let out a deep sigh, and her brow furrowed as she read through the legal documents that dissolved her marriage and gave her back her family name.
The day she'd married Donald Parks all Maitlyn had dreamed of was the two of them having two kids, a dog and the house with the white picket fence. And now, here she was, grateful that they had never had children together. She would not have wanted to subject any child to the catastrophe that had been their marriage. She sighed once more before lifting her dark eyes to meet her sister's intense gaze.
District court judge Katrina Stallion was eyeing her critically; her expression voiced her concerns even before she spoke. "You will keep your home here, your brownstone in Harlem and your Los Angeles properties. Donald will keep the town house in Atlanta. Any ties he had with the Maitlyn Agency have now been completely severed. You've agreed to reimburse the ten thousand he initially invested in your company, and he's agreed that he will have no claims on any future royalties or benefits from the business. But you are still legally entitled to half his pension and retirement benefits from his employment with IBM. The state considers it all community property and therefore subject to division. Once you give me the word, I'll draw up the paperwork and file for a court order adjunct to the divorce decree."
Maitlyn shook her head. "I don't want it. I don't want anything from Donald."
Their mother's voice interjected from across the room. Katherine Boudreaux stood in front of her kitchen sink, her forearms lost in a bath of soapy water as she washed the dishes left from breakfast. "Maitlyn, before you make a final decision you need to take some time to think about it. You were a good wife. Every tear that man made you cry earned you that money. There is no reason you shouldn't claim it."
Katherine turned to stare at her fourth child. "She doesn't have to make a decision right now, does she, Katrina?" she asked.
"No, ma'am. We can make note that we'll be filing for an amendment to the settlement agreement later. It's just important that Maitlyn knows what her rights are and what she's legally entitled to."
Katherine nodded as she reached for a dish towel to dry her hands. "Good, then she can decide when she comes back."
Both women turned to eye the older woman curiously.
"Back from where, Mom?" Katrina asked.
"Where am I going?" Maitlyn questioned.
Katherine smiled brightly as she tossed the dishrag back on the counter. "It's a surprise from your father. Let me go find Senior so he can tell you himself," she said as she disappeared out the back door of the kitchen.
Maitlyn rolled her eyes.
Katrina chuckled softly. "Those are your parents," she said teasingly.
Maitlyn smiled ever so slightly, feigning interest in the conversation as she pondered what their parents might have in store for her. Truth be told, Maitlyn didn't like surprises, and she really didn't care to discover what this one might be. She was still completely distraught over finding herself single and alone after twelve years of marriage to the only man she had ever loved.
When Maitlyn had made the decision to finally dissolve her marriage, Katrina, still legally able to practice law in the state of Louisiana, had flown in from her Dallas home to represent her. Providing a wealth of emotional support, Katrina had helped to ease the hurt that came when the life Maitlyn had once envisioned for herself had fallen completely apart. "What were you saying about John and Marah?" she asked as Katrina continued to update her on the latest family news.
Katrina was married to Matthew Stallion of the renowned Stallion family out of Texas. The couple had two children: seventeen-year old Collin from Katrina's first marriage and their new baby, Matthew Jacoby Junior, who would soon be celebrating his first birthday. Their oldest brother, Mason Boudreaux, was married to Matthew's younger sister, Phaedra, and the couple had already been planning the perfect time to conceive their first child. They had been watching the moon and stars and taking fertility advice from their sister Kamaya, and Maitlyn fathomed it would only be a matter of time before they'd be making their big announcement. Babies were suddenly becoming quite the rage between the two families. But Katrina had just mentioned something about the oldest brother, John Stallion, and his wife, Marah...something about them not being able to have any children.
Katrina released a loud sigh. "I swear, Maitlyn. I've been talking to you for ten minutes and you haven't paid attention to a word I've said!"
"Yes, I was," Maitlyn professed. "I just-I..." she stammered. She then swiped at a tear that had rolled down her cheek. "Donald didn't want kids, but he didn't bother to tell me that until after we were married. When it became an issue between us he went and had a vasec-tomy without even discussing it with me first."
"He didn't tell you?" Katrina gasped.
Maitlyn nodded. "Donald did a lot of things he didn't bother to tell me about."
Her sister shook her head. "Maitlyn, why didn't you tell any of us? We're your family, and if you had just opened up, you know we would have been there for you."
Maitlyn shrugged. "I know. I just.. " She trailed off as she shrugged her shoulders. The words had caught in her chest as she struggled not to cry. She couldn't begin to explain how she felt. As the second child and the eldest girl, she was the one who was supposed to be there for her siblings to depend on. If they had been aware of her failings, how could they have trusted her to be there for them in their times of need?
Katrina tapped the documents on the table. "Well, that phase of your life is done and finished. Leave the past behind you. You need to live your dreams now!"
Maitlyn nodded as she forced a smile. She took a deep breath and cleared her throat. "So, what were you saying about Marah?"
"Marah and John found out that they can't have kids. She has some kind of uterine abnormality that will make it difficult for her to carry a child to term."
Maitlyn suddenly struggled again to fight back her tears. "That's so sad," she said. "They seem so happy together, and the last time I talked to her she said they were really trying to have a baby."
"It is sad," Katrina agreed. "But they're handling it well. Marah was telling me that they've discussed adoption and surrogacy and are considering their options. But neither of them seemed overly concerned. And when you consider that John's already raised a family, you can better understand why it might not bother them as much. After all, John was seventeen and his youngest brother, Luke, was just six when their parents died. John stepped in to take full responsibility for his brothers."
"But what about Marah? How does she feel? It has to bother her, right?"
"Sometimes when she's babysitting Jake, I can see the sadness in her eyes. She says that between running the ranch and her business that she barely has time to take care of herself let alone a baby, but you never know. Right now, they're taking some alone time in Paris, so we'll see what happens when they get back."
"She's going to miss having kids," Maitlyn professed, her voice dropping to a low whisper. "I know I do."
Katrina tossed her a slight smile. "Having children is still an option for you. You deserve to be happy, Maitlyn. It's time you looked forward to what's ahead for you. You don't need to worry over your past anymore."
Maitlyn nodded her head. "I know."
"I'm going to tell you like I told Marah and like Mommy has always told all of us. Trust in whatever plan God has for you."
Before Maitlyn could respond, her father's booming voice resounded from the doorway. The two women turned to see Mason "Senior" Boudreaux making his way into the room. He cradled Katrina's young son in his arms. The baby was laughing heartily as drool flooded down his chin. Senior tickled his chubby folds, and the baby laughed again. The sight of them made both women laugh.
"Me and baby Jake were trying to stay away from all your girl stuff. Men can't get no kind of peace in this house!"
"Stop your fussing," Katherine admonished as she moved in behind them. She reached to wipe the baby's mouth with the corner of his bib.
Katrina cut an eye toward her big sister and smiled. "So, where is Mattie going, Senior? What's the big surprise?"
Senior met his daughter's curious gaze as Maitlyn stared at him past her sister's shoulder. "Should I be scared?" she questioned.
Senior laughed as he blew bubbles against the baby's cheek. "I would be. That's a whole lot of water you gone be on!"
"Water? I don't understand-" Maitlyn started.
Katherine clapped her hands together excitedly. "Senior is sending you on a cruise. You leave at the end of the week," she exclaimed.
Katrina jumped up with excitement. Completely stunned, Maitlyn came to her feet, as well. "A cruise? I can't do a cruise," she stated.
Senior passed baby Jake to Katrina. He took a deep breath as he moved to stand in front of his oldest daughter; then his hands gripped her gently by the shoulders. "You can do a cruise, and you will do this cruise."
"But, Senior, I have to work! I can't just-"
The patriarch held up his index finger and shook it in her face. "You need some time away, Maitlyn Rose. You've had a rough year. Your mama and I have been watching you take care of everyone but yourself. Between managing Guy's career, cleaning up Darryl's messes, handling Kamaya's business and everything else you do for your brothers and sisters, not to mention your other clients, you haven't had any time for you. And that stops right now."
"Your father's right," Katherine interjected. "With everything Donald put you through, this will be a great opportunity for Maitlyn to rediscover Maitlyn. You need to do you a Stella!"
Katrina suddenly laughed out loud, her eyes wide with amusement.
Maitlyn looked confused. "Stella? What does that mean?"
Katherine rolled her eyes. "Go get your groove back, baby."
Color flushed Maitlyn's face as understanding washed over her.
Senior reached for his grandson again and moved back toward the door. "Come on, Jake. Told you we men can't get a minute of peace with all these women in the house," he chimed as they disappeared from view.
Katrina laughed again. "Mama, I think you embarrassed Senior."
Maitlyn nodded as she sat back down. "I know you embarrassed me!"
Katherine fanned a hand at her daughters. "You know your daddy better than that." She dropped down onto the seat beside Maitlyn and wrapped an arm around her shoulders.
"And I don't know what you're embarrassed about. That well has been dry for too long," she teased. "It's time you go get yours, baby. That's all I'm going to say." Katherine leaned in to kiss her daughter's cheek. "Go get yours!"
Shaking her head, Maitlyn smiled ever so slightly as Katherine and Katrina both laughed out loud.
Standing in front of the full-length mirror that hung from the closet door, Maitlyn held up two dresses, flashing one and then the other in front of her lean frame.
"Pack them both," Tarah Boudreaux said. "In fact, pack it all! You'll be gone for thirty-four days. For thirty-four days you're going to need a lot of clothes. No one expects you to pack conservatively."
"No one expects me to go over my baggage limit, either. I don't know why I agreed to do this," Maitlyn exclaimed, dropping down onto the full-size bed. "I don't want to do this!"
Tarah laughed. "Do you want to tell Senior that, or do you want me to tell him for you?"
"Would it make a difference?"
"Nope. He'll still tell you that you're going whether you like it or not." Tarah giggled.
Maitlyn sighed as she threw herself back against the mattress. She pulled an arm across her face, covering her eyes. She wanted to be excited about her trip, but she was still mourning the loss of her marriage. Life had thrown her a serious curve, and she wasn't quite ready to end the pity party she'd been throwing for herself.
Her ex-husband's rejection had been monumental, and she was tired of pretending to be strong when all she felt was broken. She took a deep breath as she sat upright and met the harsh stare Tarah was giving her. Like the rest of her family, Tarah refused to commiserate, totally unconcerned with her discontent. "What?" she questioned, eyeing her sister with annoyance.
"I think we should go lingerie shopping. You can't pack any of this stuff," her baby sister said, shaking a fistful of her cotton panties in the air.
Maitlyn rolled her eyes. "Why are you touching my underwear?"
"Because these granny panties are not cute! And you definitely don't want to be caught wearing these if you should meet a guy on your cruise."
Maitlyn shook her head, not at all amused.
"Oh, oh, oh," Tarah suddenly exclaimed, jumping onto the bed beside her. "I think you should have sex with one of the cabin guys."
"I am not having sex with a cabin guy."
"Just wild, dirty sex where you don't even bother to ask his name," Tarah said excitedly, her hands waving in the air. "I can just see it now. He won't know you're in the room when he comes into your cabin to turn down the bed. You'll pretend to be surprised when he catches you doing this sultry striptease out of your clothes. Then you'll give him a sexy come-hither look, and when he does you rip his uniform off. Afterward, you show him to the door and leave him a big tip so he definitely knows it wasn't a love thing."
"Do you hear yourself?' Maitlyn asked with her eyebrows lifted in astonishment.
"The more important question is do you hear me?"
"Reel in that creative imagination of yours, please. This is not what this trip is for, Tarah. I swear, Mommy and Daddy taught you better."
Tarah laughed. "Exactly! How often do Mommy and Daddy give you carte blanche approval to go do your thing with no repercussions? You can go have sex with the cabin boy, the pool guy and the captain and no one will say anything because they won't know unless you tell! What happens on the cruise stays on the cruise. Isn't that what Mommy said?"
"You are so silly," Maitlyn said, her smile wide.
"Just wild, dirty sex with no strings. Oh, yeah! Go, Maitlyn! Go, Maitlyn!" Tarah sang. "Get your groove on!"
Tarah's gleeful tone made Maitlyn laugh out loud. "Anyway, how's school?" she asked, hoping to divert her sister's attention to something else.
"School is fine. Don't change the subject."
Maitlyn tossed up her hands. "I'm not talking about this anymore, Tarah."
"Don't talk, just keep packing, and then let's go shopping. I feel a Victoria's Secret shopping spree coming on," Tarah said as she scrambled off the bed and headed toward the door. "I'll go see if Mommy and Katrina want to come." Tarah raced out the door.
Maitlyn smiled. Despite her best efforts it looked like her self-proclaimed pity party was about to come to an end.
"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.
Book Description Harlequin Kimani Romance, 2014. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M0373863411
Book Description Harlequin Kimani, 2014. Mass Market Paperback. Condition: New. Never used!. Seller Inventory # P110373863411