Trusting Maverick will be live on April 26th, but here's a sneak peek of the first chapter! Preorder now on Amazon. Click here.
**Copyright belongs to Emily Rose. This cannot be reproduced, copied, or used in any way without permission from the author.**
“I’m sorry, you want me to do what now?” I ask slowly, unsure if I’ve heard him right. I mean, it is Asa, and he’s not exactly known for being all that serious. If you look up ‘perpetual jokester’ in the dictionary, you’ll find his picture. Hell, I’ve thought about adding that into a dictionary specifically for him.
Asa rolls his eyes at me. Out of the two of us, he’s the pretty boy. You know, honey blonde hair, blue eyes, and a smile that has women throwing themselves at him all the damn time? I’ve had to step over a few of them a time or two, and it never ceases to amaze me how he never seems to end things on a bad note with women. Even when he lets them down, they leave with a smile and only have good things to say.
I’m not sure if I should be impressed or irritated. It’s been forever since a woman has interested me, and my last break up, well, it left a very bad taste in my mouth.
“I want you to go to the bookstore to pick up the book I ordered,” Asa repeats irritably. “What? You don’t think I can read?”
“I mean, I always suspected, but now I know you’re full of shit,” I retort. “What, you need a new ‘Marketing for Dummies’ manual?”
He flips me off, but I see the smirk on his lips. “No, smartass. It’s a new release by Charlotte Keene and…”
“Wait, isn’t she the one who writes that mom porn stuff that Ash and Mom are always reading?” I interrupt.
He glares at me. “It’s not Mom porn,” he sniffs. “It’s erotic romance, and I’ll have you know that shit is damn good. You should give it a try sometime. Maybe then you’d finally be able to find and keep a woman.”
I scowl at him. “I don’t want a woman. Who needs the headache? And I don’t need to read a romance novel to figure out how to keep a relationship going. Sorry you do, bro. I mean, I know you have to compensate in bed, what with that tiny dick of yours…”
He snorts. “Trust me, bro,” he sneers, “my dick is just fine. I’ve never had one complaint, thank you very much. In fact, just the other night…”
“I don’t want to know,” I say sharply, holding up my hand. “God, why are you bugging me with this? I mean, ask Sloan or Ash to help you. Hell, ask Raven for all I care. I have shit I need to figure out here.” Our company is about to overtake Hewitt Books and Nooks, a decently sized bookstore chain that is floundering, and this deal, while smaller than our usual acquisitions, requires just as much time and effort. Being the CFO of the company means I’m the numbers guy, and I have to make sure we aren’t bleeding money on the deal.”
“Because Sloan and Raven are busy, Ash has the kids, and Mom is off with some girlfriends for some spa vacation or something,” Asa replies drily.
I groan. “Please tell me she’s not with Rose and Alice. Fuck, or Sage.” Sage Armstrong is the new girlfriend of Rose and Bullet’s son, King, and that woman is damn crazy. Not only did she come to town and start stirring up shit, but she convinced my mother, Rose, and Raven to all leave the clubhouse one night, moon a cop car, and get themselves arrested. We’ve all agreed those women together are a menace to society and we should limit their interactions as much as possible.
“No, thank God,” Asa sighs. “She said she asked Rose and Alice, but they were both busy.” I nod, accepting that, and secretly pleased that I probably won’t be called to help bail them out of jail. I say probably because you never know with my mother. “Now will you go for me, please? I told them I would be there before they close at five, but Julie sprung that last-minute meeting with Richard Pentworth about the marketing campaign we’re doing for that merger.”
I blow out a breath and check my watch. I have just enough time to get over there if I leave now. “Fine,” I grumble, standing. “You owe me.”
“Whatever,” he says with a roll of his eyes, but we both know he’ll pay up any time I ask. “The girl I talked to is named Gwen. She said she’ll be the only one there, so she should have it waiting.”
“Alright. I’ll see you later.”
I follow Asa out of my office, biting back a growl of frustration when I see my assistant’s desk empty. Again. “You really need to fire her and get a new assistant,” Asa remarks before he heads to his office down the hall.
He’s right, but I just don’t have the time to worry about training a new one. My newest assistant, Lila, is decent enough, but she spends a lot more time on her phone than working. Not to mention, she’s always late and leaves early. It’s a pain in the ass, and if I didn’t have so much shit on my plate right now, I’d have fired her months ago.
Not to mention, if she tries to feel me up one more time, I’m going to lose my shit on her, and that won’t end well.
I step into the elevator and make my way down to the lobby. Thankfully the bookstore is only a few blocks away so I have time to walk there. I bite back my annoyance as I try to dodge crowds of people and not get bumped around too much.
I’m a big enough guy, but some of the people out here today put me to shame. I’m six-two, but I’m not as bulky as Sloan, even though I hit the gym four days a week. So when someone bumps into me, I have enough muscle to keep from falling over, but I still grunt and glare at the asshole as he storms past. Whatever.
I finally reach the bookstore, Fantasy, Time, & Dreams, and make my way in, a bell over the door ringing. “I’ll be right there,” a voice calls out from somewhere in the back. I hear the feminine lilt to it and figure this must be the mysterious Gwen that Asa mentioned.
“No problem,” I holler back, looking around. I haven’t been here before, but I’m loving what I’m seeing. This is actually how I picture Hewitt Books and Nooks should be. Their stores are sterile and modern, with too many sleek shelves and high-back chairs. They aren’t warm; aren’t a place that people love to stay and read.
This place, it’s none of those things. The shelves are a warm oak, with the walls a rich brown that shouldn’t work, but somehow does. In a few different places are strategically placed loungers, chairs, and even a small sofa. There are a few well-placed book displays that showcase specialized books as well as a local authors section.
Towards the back of the store are more shelves, and a small coffee station. It isn’t anything too big or cumbersome, but it’s a nice way to keep people from leaving too soon. Not to mention, it has a very nice flow and I can see that whoever designed this place took the time to maximize its potential. I’ll have to get Asa to take a closer look at it, to get some ideas for when we redesign Hewitt’s.
“So sorry,” the voice says to my right, and I see a woman emerging from between the stacks. As she moves closer, I’m struck by how gorgeous she is, and all I can do is stare.
I peg her at about five-six, with a lean body, short blonde hair that’s cut in an edgy style that reaches her chin. Her eyes are dark brown, and she has a small nose, and full lips. She’s wearing a black t-shirt with the store’s name displayed across her chest, and a pair of denim skinny jeans that show off toned legs and slim hips.
Damn. I was going to kick Asa’s ass for sending me here, but now I’m going to have to send him a bottle of his favorite scotch as a thank you.
“No problem,” I say easily, smiling at her. “Sorry to come in when you’re probably getting ready to close. I’m here to pick up a book for my brother, Asa Lincoln. He said he spoke with a woman named Gwen who would have the book waiting for him.”
She gives me a warm smile, and I see a flash of straight white teeth. Damn, that smile hits me right in the chest, and I have to resist the urge to rub it. “Yes, he did,” she says as she moves behind the counter. She picks a book off the back counter, and I see it’s got a half-naked couple on the front in a very sensual pose. I have to fight back a wince. I hope to God she’s going to give me a bag to carry it in. She gives me a teasing smile. “Not often I get a man asking for one of these, but I’ve read it and it’s a very good book.”
I sigh. “I’d love to say this surprises me, but it doesn’t. My brother is a bit odd on a good day. I’m the normal brother,” I joke.
She chuckles. “Well, I think it’s great. Men can learn a lot from these books. Do you read too?”
“I do, but I tend towards sci-fi and murder mystery or suspense,” I admit as she rings it up.
“Ever thought of giving a romance book a try?” she asks curiously.
I think briefly I could lie to try and impress her, but my mother would have my head for lying to a beautiful woman, so instead, I shake my head. “I’m not really all that interested in love and happy endings,” I admit. “I know it works, my parents are proof of that, but I’m a bit more skeptical.”
She nods. “I agree with you,” she replies, surprising me. “Nothing against romance, and I’ll admit it’s fun to read, but the real world isn’t a fantasy.” She gives me a quick wink and adds, “Not that I mind looking at covers like these though.” She holds up the book like some sort of Price is Right model and waves her hand in front of the cover dramatically.
I grin and chuckle. “I think that’s a given for most women.” Figuring now is a good time as any to introduce myself, I hold out my hand. “I’m Maverick Lincoln, by the way.”
She shakes my hand, and the feel of her smaller hand in mine sends a bolt of pleasure streaking up my arm. “Gwen Hearst,” she replies. “I recognized you, though. Not many people around here can say they’re on the cover of the town’s most eligible bachelor list.”
I wince. Shit, I forgot about that. A few months ago, some of the single guys in town were put in a spread for a long-running magazine and it went crazy. Asa and I both made the list, and we were fielding calls left, right, and center for interviews. “Saw that, did you?”
She tilts her head and eyes me for a moment. “I doubt anyone’s missed it if you live in this town. I take it you’re not as flattered by the attention?”
“You could say that. I’m more interested in staying in the background as much as I can unless it involves my work or a charity I support. Instead, I’m fielding calls constantly.”
“Oh poor you,” she drawls blandly. “How will you ever survive? All that feminine attention and you’re ready to run.”
I eye her for a moment, unsure how to answer, but I see the glint of amusement in her eyes and smirk. “It’s a trial,” I sigh dramatically, “but I put up with it for the betterment of the male species.”
She snorts, and it’s the most adorable thing I’ve heard in a long time. “Alright, alright,” she chuckles. “I get it, you’re not all that interested in the attention.” She puts the book in a brown bag and hands it to me after I pay for it. “But if it’s any consolation, I think you were the best looking in that spread.”
Now that piques my interest. She doesn’t strike me as the shy type, but she’s not a ball buster like Raven. There’s chemistry between us, and I can feel it. She meets my gaze head on and I mentally say fuck it. “So if I asked you out to dinner, would that mean you’d say yes?” I ask her, then hold my breath and pray she doesn’t say no.
She blinks at me. “You want to take me out on a date?” she asks slowly.
I smile charmingly. “I think that’s the general idea when a man finds a woman attractive. Though, like you said, maybe I should be checking out these romance books to be sure.” I make a show of pulling out the book from the bag and flipping through the pages.
She snorts again and says, “I highly doubt you will ever live up to the standards in those books. Most of the men in that particular series are bossy, grumpy, and their idea of a date is pressing a woman against a wall and telling her she belongs to him before getting to all the smutty goodness.”
I look over at her and then glance around. “I don’t see any bare walls,” I remark sadly. “I mean, we could try the bookcase but…”
“Handsome and witty I see,” she interrupts, laughing. “Hate to tell you, but that would just end up with you having your balls rammed up your throat.”
“Might be worth it if you agree to go out with me,” I shrug. She rolls her eyes. I put the book back in the bag and grab the pen and small notepad by the cash register. I jot down my number quickly. “Text or call me when you’re ready,” I tell her, figuring that pressuring her isn’t going to turn out well. A smart man knows when to back off and let the woman call the shots.
She looks at it and then at me. She hesitates but finally says, “How about I save you the trouble. I’ll say yes, but I have to make sure I have a sitter.”
That gives me pause. “Boy or girl?” I ask.
She tenses slightly. “A twenty-four-year-old sister,” she finally says. “My sister has special needs and lives with me, and she can’t be left alone. I understand though if that’s too much for you and you want to change your mind. No hard feelings.”
I arch a brow at her. What kind of douchebags has she been dating? “Your sister sounds like she has an excellent sister who puts her first,” I say softly. “How about this? You figure out a night you can have someone to be with her, and then text me and let me know. I’ll make sure I’m available.”
She stares at me. “Okay,” she says finally, and I see the vulnerability in her eyes before it quickly disappears. “I’ll do that.”
“Nice to meet you, Gwen,” I say with a warm smile. “And I really do hope to hear from you soon.”
I walk out of the store, bag in hand, and smile to myself. I might just have to thank Asa after all.