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Table of Contents
Excerpt - Blindside
Excerpt - Fringe Benefits
Other Books by Shelley
Zoe Underwood is one sexy disruption.
From the moment her father married Matt’s mother, Zoe has tempted Matt Cantrell with her seductive curves and driven him crazy with her flirting and provocative manner. The thing is they have no future because Zoe is his stepsister. Determined to dodge trouble, Matt leaves Auckland to live and work in the Gold Coast of Australia. A sea between them should do the trick and let him move forward without the “Zoe” distraction in his life.
Matt Cantrell is one stubborn dude.
No one presses Zoe’s buttons like the tall, dark and gorgeous Matt. In fact, every other man pales in comparison. One last play. Zoe decides to invade Matt’s territory and make her move before another clever woman snaps him up. She’ll bust through emotional walls and push boundaries. By the time she’s finished, Matt won’t know what hit him. Yes. Good or bad, she’ll stir things up and take a chance on love.
Matt Cantrell frowned when he pushed open the front door of his Gold Coast beachside house. He was certain he’d locked it before he left for work. Positive.
It wasn’t locked now.
Adrenaline rising, he reached around the corner and flicked on a light, scanning the wide spaces of the open-plan room. The trail of feminine apparel littering the tiled floor erased the scowl from his forehead. Marisa had apparently recovered from her sulk over his having to work late and cancel their date. A slow, satisfied grin curled his lips as he shut the door. Maybe showing her where he kept the spare key hadn’t been a mistake. A bout of hot sex was exactly what he needed to unwind.
He took half a step toward the bedroom, pausing to scoop up a shoe. When he fingered the flimsy leather straps, his smile turned feral. Damn, he’d thought he was in for months of empty-bed syndrome. With his current workload, he didn’t have time to find a replacement. He picked up the shoe’s mate and set them down, out of the way. The hair scrunchie came as a bit of a surprise. Marisa didn’t like to wear her hair loose and always wore it up in a fussy style he wasn’t game to touch. He registered the bright jewel colors of the scrunchie next and a soft whistle broke the silence. The visit was definitely impulsive. His cock pulled tight in pure anticipation and an appreciative smile bloomed. Spontaneous didn’t describe Marisa either, but this time he’d go with the flow.
The phone rang. He detoured to grab it, his impatient gaze on his bedroom door.
“Matt Cantrell.” He toed off his shoes and juggled the phone while he bent to yank off his socks.
“Matthew, thank goodness you’re home.” His mother’s anxious voice poured down the line. Alarm bells clanged. Matthew straightened in concern. The time difference between New Zealand and Australia meant it was late in Auckland. Too late for his mother to ring. “Mum? What is it? What’s wrong?”
“Oh, Matthew. It’s Zoe. She’s gone!”
“Gone where?” His breath eased out in relief. A storm in a teacup. Zoe was always testing parental boundaries. This time wouldn’t be any different. He shook his head, thinking about his feisty sister. Stepsister, actually, since they weren’t related in any way. They’d become a blended family when his mother and her father had fallen in love and married. Not that he’d spent much time with his new stepsister since he’d already left home when Zoe and her father came on the scene. Prior to his mother’s remarriage, he’d started work at a large accounting firm in central Auckland and had already moved into a flat with three of his friends. Now he lived and worked in Australia.
“We don’t know where Zoe is. We haven’t seen her since the day before yesterday,” his mother wailed.
“She’ll come round,” he said, wondering how soon he could join Marisa in his king-size bed. He didn’t want to think about Zoe. Hell, he tried not to think about her. The eight-year gap was a big one despite his sister’s maturity. Stepsister, he reminded himself tartly. They weren’t related. “She’s probably staying with university friends.”
His mother sighed. “That’s what we argued about. She dropped out of university. Says she doesn’t want to be a teacher anymore. And she’s running with a wild crowd. I’m sure she’s sleeping with one of them. She came home with bruises all over her neck.”
Hickeys? Matt’s hand gripped the phone so hard his knuckles whitened. He’d moved across the Tasman Sea to avoid temptation—the siren lure cast by Zoe. He snorted inwardly. And the joke was his stepsister had no idea. He cleared his throat. “What do you want me to do?”
“I wondered if you’d heard from her.”
Not likely given the taut atmosphere between them the last time they’d met. “I haven’t seen Zoe since before Christmas. She told me off because I couldn’t make it home more often.”
His mother laughed—a forced chortle, but at least she sounded more in control. “She was furious with you and sulked for days.”
“Which makes it unlikely I’d hear from her,” he said in an even tone, ignoring the fact that she had filled his thoughts every day since.
“I know, but it was worth a try. Matt, I’m so worried. Since Christmas, she’s been acting very strangely. Ring me if you hear from her.”
“Sure, Mum. Don’t worry. She’s an adult. You have to let her make her own decisions. Her own mistakes.” Shit, he didn’t want to think about her. And definitely not as an adult. Thoughts of adults led to thinking of the things they did. Together. Hell, he’d thought he was over this thing for her. A hickey for God’s sake. A hickey implied more togetherness than he was comfortable knowing about his stepsister’s love life.
“Matt? Are you there?”
“Yeah, sorry. I’m working long hours.” A yawn punctuated his statement, adding a slice of reality to his words.
“Go to bed, dear.”
“Good idea,” he said, relaxing a little at the idea of Marisa waiting for him. Naked. Warm, willing feminine flesh. Maybe he could hold his fatigue at bay for long enough to enjoy Marisa.
After promising again to contact his parents if Zoe rang, he hung up. He rotated one shoulder, aware of the tension inside, and groaned, a low, pained sound. He’d wanted Zoe in a sexual way since the day of her nineteenth birthday. Like a bolt of lightning, the hunger had hit him without warning, bringing confusion and guilt. The feeling hadn’t abated and was just as strong three years later. And still forbidden.
A sea between them wasn’t helping. Perhaps he’d try London. Maybe an ocean or two would do the trick.
Matt stared at a silky black top. He picked it up and rubbed the sumptuous material between his fingers. Suddenly, his tiredness dropped away. He loosened his tie and tugged it off, draping it over the back of a cream leather chair along with Marisa’s top. He undid the buttons on his pale blue business shirt with nimble fingers. The shirt joined the top and tie. He slipped into his bedroom.
Total darkness shrouded the room, the whisper of breathing the only audible noise. Matt smiled. After stripping his trousers and boxer shorts off and placing them beside the bed, he tugged back the covers and crawled into bed. Marisa lay on her side, facing away from him. He slid closer, smoothing his hand across her shoulder. Leaning down, he pressed a kiss to her bare back. She smelled of flowers—carnations to be exact. Nice. Different from Marisa’s usual spicy perfume. He liked this one much better.
When he nuzzled behind her ear, she stirred with a sleepy sigh. Smiling, he kissed the smooth skin and stroked his hand down her arm and across her hip. She murmured again, starting to rouse. Good, ‘cause he was definitely beginning to stir, his cock pressing insistently against her curvy backside. Time to rev up this interlude. He slipped a finger into the valley between her butt cheeks and traced a path to her pussy. Her warm flesh parted. She sighed and spread her legs a fraction, just enough for him to graze his finger across her clitoris. She moved again, pressing her luscious ass against his swollen cock. Marisa had put on a bit of weight. He liked it. With soft, gentle strokes, he massaged her until the tiny bud swelled. Marisa stirred again and froze. Then, she let out a shriek loud enough to wake the dead in the local cemetery and leapt from the bed.
“Keep away from me.” The note of fear told him she wasn’t playing games.
“I’ll get the light.”
“No! Just go, and I won’t tell anyone.”
He froze in the act of reaching for the light, his gut churning with acute apprehension. He knew that voice. Suddenly, all the new things he’d noticed about Marisa made sense.
With a sick and sinking sensation in his belly, he fumbled with the bedside lamp. Soft light bathed his room. He swore, low with feeling. “What are you doing here, Zoe?”
Instead of answering, she smoothed a lock of light brown hair off her face and stared at him with big, brown eyes. When her gaze dropped, he cursed again and reached for his trousers, rapidly stepping into them and forcing the zipper over his erection.
“Put on some clothes.” There was a distinct snap in his voice. Self-loathing sat heavily in the bottom of his gut. His mother and John would die of shock if they found out. They weren’t going to find out. He sure as hell wasn’t going to confess to his monumental cock-up. No pun intended.
“I’ll make coffee.” He strode from the room but couldn’t resist a last look at her. She caught him in the act, and he jerked as if touched with a hot poker. He cursed under his breath. Her curvy image was seared on his retinas for life.
Instead of making coffee, Matt padded across the terracotta tiles and headed straight for his liquor cupboard in the ultra-modern kitchen. He opened the door and pulled out the first bottle that came to hand. Whiskey. Unscrewing the cap, he drank straight from the bottle. The peaty flavor cut across his taste buds. He closed his eyes and swallowed. Mistake. Zoe’s sexy shape flashed in front of his eyes. He’d—Matt shuddered, still able to feel the warm, clinging flesh of her pussy.
“Do you grope every woman you find in your bed?”
“It’s my bed,” he snapped, his eyes flicking open. She wore his robe belted around her trim waist. Shit, he wasn’t the one in the wrong here. He was the innocent victim in this…debacle. “You were naked.”
“Because the airline lost my luggage.” She folded her arms across her chest. His eyes followed the move, noting that in the years since he’d last studied her closely, she’d filled out in a spectacular fashion. His cock jerked in displeasure, reminding Matt he required satisfaction. But that wasn’t going to happen. Not with this woman at any rate.