Hello romance readers!
I feel truly blessed right now because one of my ultimate goals has actually happened. My first book with Harlequin Kimani Romance, Her Perfect Candidate, has been officially released today! Its available as an ebook (see links after the excerpt) and print in bookstores and where Kimani’s are sold for the rest of the month. I’ve been impatiently waiting for June 1st to arrive. I’m always on pins and needles when my books are released but this one is so much more special to me because I’ve wanted this for so long. I hope you enjoy Megan and Steven’s love story! Send me an email, leave a comment or a review on Amazon or Goodreads and let me know what you think. (Unless you hate it. No just teasing…sort of)
Below is chapter one and the buy links! Happy reading and thank you so much for your support these past two years of my writing career!
Co-owner of an up-and-coming interior-decorating firm, Megan Chase loves being a single woman on the fast track to success. But everything changes when a flat tire brings Georgia senator Steven Monroe into her life. The sinfully sexy politician needs the right woman to clean up his image. And with Megan’s fine eye for detail, she just may be the woman for the job.
Steven’s reputation as a player could cost him his chance at a U.S. senate seat. But when the cameras catch him and Megan in a kiss that’s all too real, it’s not only his future candidacy in jeopardy. As the lines between politics and desire begin to blur, how much will he risk to transform their passionate pretense into a landslide for love.
Megan Chase plopped her forehead on the steering wheel. It was early evening in rush hour traffic, and her SUV had just gotten a flat tire on Interstate 85 in Atlanta. Luckily, she was in the far right lane and was able to inch the vehicle over to the shoulder. She lifted her head, breathed deeply and eased open the door to survey the damage. But before her 4-inch heel could hit the pavement, she quickly drew it back in observing the cars zooming by at high speeds.
Shutting the door, she moved her laptop bag and purse from the passenger seat into the back, before climbing over the gearshift. The flat was on the back passenger side. She figured she could change it and then be on her way to meet her twin sister and her best friend at a scholarship fund-raiser event one of her clients had invited them to.
She hopped out of the SUV and walked carefully along the rocky pavement.
“Of all the days to dress up,” she said, pulling her short black dress down to barely touch her knees. She stooped down to look at the damaged tire. The tires were new, so she wasn’t quite sure why she had a flat. A nail, probably, she thought.
Earlier that day, she’d put the finishing touches on decorating a model home in a new subdivision outside of Atlanta. Houses were in the process of being built, and Megan had toured the subdivision to see the homes. She figured she’d run over a nail in the process.
As she popped the trunk to retrieve the tire, she heard her cell phone blaring from her purse in the backseat. Climbing through the trunk of her SUV to reach the phone, she knew who was calling before she even looked at the display. Now, glancing down at the caller ID to confirm her suspicion, she saw Sydney Chase’s name flash on the screen. Megan knew if she didn’t answer the phone, Sydney the worrier, would probably have the FBI, CIA and the SWAT team scouring the city for her within the hour.
The sound of a horn and tires on the gravel behind Megan stopped her from answering the call. She grabbed the mace she always carried in her purse and began to climb backward out of the SUV. Her finger placed firmly on the spray button.
As she turned around to step down, a fine-looking tall man was standing in front of her opened trunk, with his hand out to assist her. She blinked twice and stifled a “Goodness he’s gorgeous” with a slight gulp. The sun was going down behind him radiating an aura of bright yellow and orange.
“Need some assistance, pretty lady?” the sexy, baritone voice offered.
Megan tossed the mace spray over the backseat and placed her empty hand in his. His touch on her skin, although brief, sent a warm shiver through her veins. Once settled onto the pavement, she squinted her eyes and placed her right hand straight across her forehead to see him better without being blinded by what was left of the sun.
She looked up in amazement at the most handsome man she had ever laid her eyes upon. He was quite tall, at least a few inches over six feet. His hair was neatly trimmed with black wavy ripples. The evening sun was bringing out the color of his smooth, milk chocolate skin, and she fought back the urge to run a hand over his hairless, chiseled face. He had thick eyelashes that supermodels would give up purging their dinner for. His charming smile displayed pearl-colored teeth between his inviting lips. While he had let go of her hand, she could still feel the warmth of it on her skin. She wondered how his strong hands would feel on the rest of her body.
For a moment time stood still. She didn’t notice the cars zooming by them or the April sun bearing down on her. Instead, she thought about how he reminded her of the man she always dreamed about. The man who would one day rescue her on his white horse and love her forever.
Suddenly remembering that he’d asked her a question, she blinked several times before coming down from cloud nine.
“Do I know you?” she asked, studying his captivating face.
A delicious grin crossed his mouth causing her to almost sigh out loud. Stay composed, girl. You see handsome men all the time.
“I don’t think so. I would definitely remember you if we knew each other,” the sinfully sexy gentleman stated in a tone that caused another wave of heat to rage through her.
What the heck is wrong with me?
“Oh, sorry for staring so hard, but you look familiar,” Megan replied, studying his face carefully. Megan wasn’t good with names, but she never forgot a face, especially one as intriguing as his. She couldn’t help but stare at the yummy dimple on his right cheek that appeared every time he smiled.
“What’s your name?” Megan asked.
“Nice to meet you. I’m Megan.”
“Do you need some help changing that tire?” he asked, nodding his head in the direction of the flat. “It’s too dangerous for you to be out here alone.”
“Oh, yes. I…” she stuttered, glancing toward the tire. This man is making me forget why I’m standing out here in the hot sun in the first place. “I was just about to change it.”
His left eyebrow rose. “Really?” His gaze traveled the length of her body. “Wearing Louboutins and a very…um…sexy little freak’um dress. Are you trying to cause accidents? Seeing you bent over trying to change a flat tire will cause a ten car pileup,” he teased, taking off his blue suit jacket along with a red tie and handing them to her. “I’ll take care of it, while you call back whoever keeps calling you.” He nodded down to the cell phone in her hand that kept vibrating. “Your man is probably worried.”
She shook her head and glanced at the caller ID. “It’s my sister. We’re supposed to meet for an event…” She stopped to glance at her watch. “I’m thirty minutes late and big sis is concerned,” she said, watching Steven take the spare tire and jack out of her trunk. He then slammed it shut and turned to look at her.
“I completely understand. My brother is always checking on me and he’s younger. How many years apart are you?”
“Two minutes,” she answered. “We’re twins.”
“So there are two of you?” A cocky grin formed on his lips. “Nice,” he commented, barely loud enough for her to hear as he rolled the spare tire over to the flat one. “You’re more than welcome to sit in my SUV and wait. The sun is going down, but it’s still hot. Crank the ignition and turn up the air conditioner if you’d like.”
Megan looked past him at the white Range Rover. He seems like the type to own such an elite SUV. Tailored business suit, expensive watch and a powerful, masculine presence.
“Thank you. I’ll call my sister and let her know I’m fine.” She walked steadily on the gravel toward the passenger side of his Range Rover. Once settled in the plush leather seat, she cranked the car as he suggested and was pleasantly surprised to hear Sade singing “Smooth Operator” through the speakers. She turned the volume down when she saw the light flash on her cell phone again.
“Megan, where are you? I’ve called you like five times!” Sydney exclaimed.
“Syd, I’m sorry. I had a flat tire, but I’ll be along soon,” Megan answered quickly. She was too busy gazing at the jaw-dropping man who was now peeling off his dress shirt to reveal a white undershirt. The shirt did little to hide the gorgeous muscles of his arms, chest and back. A thin sheen of sweat glistened on his forehead. He looks so damn hot and fine.Megan reached over and turned the air conditioner to full blast.
“Are you listening?” Sydney asked in an impatient manner.
Who could listen at a time like this?
“Huh? What did you say?”
“I said do you need any help? Or are you changing it yourself?”
“No, this kind man is changing it for me.” Megan continued to watch as Steven lifted the flat tire off, showcasing the toned muscles of his arms. Oh, my goodness!
“Kind man? You mean strange man! Where are you?”
“Calm down, Agent Chase. I’m sitting in his Range Rover watching him change my tire. He’s almost done,” Megan said, a little disappointed. “Poor thing, he’s sweating. I think I have some bottled water still left in my lunch cooler. Syd, this man is so gorgeous!”
“Um…is this the same Megan that swore off all men almost two years ago when her ex-boyfriend cheated?”
“I didn’t swear off all men, I just said I needed a break from dating and that mostly included all of the blind dates you, Jade and Tiffani had been arranging for me. I don’t have a problem being single.” She frowned as Steven replaced the last lug nut. He looked up and flashed a million-dollar smile, causing her to suck in her breath and become slightly turned on.
“He’s done. I’ll see you in a few.” Megan abruptly hung up the phone to avoid any lectures from her sister about being safe. Sydney was a criminal profiler with the Georgia Bureau of Investigations, and in her book, everyone was a suspect.
Megan hopped out of the passenger seat and walked over to Steven who was wiping the sweat off of his forehead with his dress shirt.
“You’re going to ruin that shirt,” she said, opening the back door of her SUV and reaching over to pull out a small, unopened bottle of water from a small ice cooler. She opened the cap and handed him the water.
“Thank you, pretty lady.” He gulped down half of the bottle before taking a breathing break and then downed the rest of the water. “The shirt will be fine. I’m headed home to change clothes anyway.”
Megan watched him intently as she thought of something else to say. She knew in a minute they’d be back in their own vehicles, going back to their already scheduled day. She didn’t notice a wedding ring—just a college ring. But that didn’t mean he wasn’t seeing someone.
“Thank you so much for changing my tire for me. I must’ve run over a nail today while driving around a subdivision’s construction site.”
“Having a home built?”
“No. I’m an interior decorator. I just finished a project in one of the model homes and decided to drive around the subdivision.” She hoped to find some way to keep the conversation going, but he was already buttoning his shirt and checking his Rolex. She decided not to delay him any longer. He needed to go, and she needed to leave as well before Syd assumed she’d been kidnapped.
He stepped toward her as she closed the back door. She leaned against the SUV as he stood directly in front of her, literally in her personal space. The woodsy scent of his cologne swirled in her nose, sending tingles through her body. I wonder what his scent would smell like intertwined with mine?
Her lips parted slightly as he stared down at her, she thought surely he was undressing her with his eyes as they raked over her.
“Thank you again. I hope I didn’t inconvenience you, Steven.”
“No, not at all. I’m very glad I pulled over to help you,” he stated in a sincere tone, running his eyes over her body one more time before they settled back on her face.
She smiled up at him before stepping over to the passenger door. He opened it for her and she slid in, crossing her legs and turning her body to face him.
“Bye, Megan,” he said hesitantly before shutting the door. He gave her one last smile before strolling back to his car, whistling.
* * *
Steven watched as the loveliest vision he’d ever laid his eyes on drove away. When he first saw her in the trunk bending over the backseat of her Acura MDX reaching for something, he couldn’t help but wonder if her toned caramel-coated legs and thighs matched the rest of her. The way her little black dress hugged her bottom and hips as it rose up, stirred his manhood. He had decided to take a chance. Plus, he couldn’t possibly leave a female on the side of the highway with a flat tire.
Her long, curly brown hair with subtle blond highlights flowed down her provocative bare back in an utterly sexy manner. He would’ve given anything to run his fingers through her soft curls, or better yet, spread them out on his pillow as he looked down at her.
He’d been pleasantly surprised when she turned around to acknowledge him. Strikingly stunning, she had a pleasant smile, high cheekbones and wore very little makeup. Her almond-shaped eyes were cinnamon in hue and when he stared into them, he felt a sense of overwhelming peace.
Steven admired all women, but Megan stirred feelings and emotions he’d never felt before in the thirty-three years of his life. Her pleasant personality and warm demeanor were a breath of fresh air.
While changing the flat tire, he couldn’t get the image of Megan’s short black dress and shapely legs in black heels out of his head. He had let his eyes roam all over her breathtaking body while he tried to make polite conversation. It was hard to do, considering she had the perfect hourglass figure. Her perky, rounded breasts and small waist were followed by hips that settled snuggly but tastefully in the dress she wore.
He had tried to move his eyes back up to hers so she wouldn’t realize he was checking her out, but instead they’d rested on her inviting lips. Sexy, luscious lips painted in a reddish shade that he enjoyed watching move. He didn’t care what she was saying, he just wanted to devour them. He felt a rise in his briefs again as he thought about the possibility of being kissed by the sexy interior decorator.
He didn’t mean to step into her personal space, but he’d needed to see her supple lips up close once more. It took everything he had in him not to drag her body close to his and kiss her senseless right there against her SUV. The way he noticed her checking him out as well, he wouldn’t have been surprised if she had responded. However, he was shocked at his thought. Kissing was something he didn’t do. Sex, yes. Kissing, no. It was too emotional, and he wasn’t looking for an emotional relationship with anyone. Yet, kissing the beautiful Megan was all he could think about.
As he drove toward his penthouse in Midtown, it dawned on him that she didn’t recognize him as the Georgia state senator Steven Monroe, son of Robert Monroe, United States senator. Coming from three generations of politicians and Harvard Law School graduates, the Monroe family were considered to be the black Kennedys because of their millions, power and influence in the political world. Because of who he was, most women usually flirted with him and did any and everything possible to garner his attention.
Steven leaned his head back on his seat and inhaled the sweet scent of the intoxicating perfume lingering in his SUV. Damn, why on earth didn’t I ask for her phone number?
* * *
Megan searched through her console between the seats for her Sade CD with her right hand as she kept her left hand steady on the wheel. She needed to hear “Smooth Operator” one more time as thoughts of Steven filled her head. She was surprised at her thoughts but couldn’t help but smile. She then glanced at herself in the rearview mirror to see how she looked when he met her. Upon finding the CD, she slid it into the CD player and waited anxiously while it loaded. She skipped the first few songs until she heard the beat of “Smooth Operator” and turned the volume up.
As she was singing the song for the second time, she saw Syd’s cell number flash on the dash. She had the Bluetooth hands-free function connected to her car, which made it safer for her to talk to clients while driving. She turned off the music and pushed the cell button on her steering wheel.
“I’m almost there, Syd,” Megan said as she exited the interstate. She then turned toward Atlantic Station, an outdoor mall in Midtown Atlanta that housed the swanky hotel Twelve, where the fund-raiser gala was being held.
“I’m just making sure the stranger who changed your tire didn’t kidnap you.”
“So tell me about this kind stranger.”
She blushed at the thought of him, and then giggled like a high school girl. “His name is Steven and that’s all I know. Oh, and he looks simply amazing in a suit.”
“Did you get a last name? I can do a background check.”
“No, I didn’t, we didn’t exchange information. But I’m fine with that.”
“Well…you seemed as if you were beaming so I just thought you may go out with him.”
“Syd, for the last time, I’m happy being single. My main concern is expanding my business. I’m focusing on my career right now.”
Megan turned her car into the valet parking area and grabbed her purse from the backseat as the valet guy opened the door, greeted her and handed her a ticket. “I’m here, Syd. I’ll see you in a few minutes.”
Thirty minutes later, Megan sat at her reserved table after she gave her donation and chatted briefly with her client and mentor, Chelsea Benton, who had invited her to the gala. Megan loved to dress up and hang with her girlfriends in intimate or casual settings but big bashes weren’t exactly her cup of tea. However, it was for charity, plus Chelsea had promised to introduce her to some potential clients.
She glanced over at her twin sitting beside her, who seemed to be having a great time people watching.
“Let me guess. You’re watching everyone and figuring out what they’re thinking just by their body language.”
Sydney nodded. Her bob hair cut swished forward in the process. Their hairstyles were the only way people knew who was who. Plus their personalities were like night and day. Megan was the more whimsical, bubbly twin whereas Sydney was the serious-minded and logical one.
“Yes, but not on purpose. It’s just a habit. Like right now I can tell by your pursed lips and the way your hand is resting under your chin, that you’re ready to leave.”
“I am, but I’ll stay for a little longer. Chelsea wanted Jade and I to meet some potential clients.”
“And where is your best friend?” Sydney glanced around the room.
“Right here, Tia and Tamera,” a sassy voice behind them said. “Thank you for saving me a seat.”
Jade Whitmore was Megan’s best friend from college. Together they owned Chase and Whitmore Designs, an up-and-coming boutique decorating firm for the past six years.
Jade slid into the empty seat on the other side of Megan and placed a glass of champagne on the table. “Sorry I’m late. I had to meet with the Cannadys to pick up their last payment. Glad we’re done with that project.”
“Me, too,” Megan agreed but her attention was diverted by the commotion at the entrance of the event. The ladies and other guests all placed their eyes on a man flanked with bodyguards and an entourage of people strolling into the gala. The man in the middle turned his back to the crowd as he stopped to shake hands and chat with a few people who approached him.
“Must be someone important,” Megan shrugged and sipped her champagne as she stared at the back of the tall man clad in a black tuxedo. He turned to the side to greet a lady with a too-short dress on who in return gazed up at him as if he were the most handsome man in the world.
Megan cocked her head to the side and raised an eyebrow as a smile inched across her face and her heart and stomach began to flutter uncontrollably.
“Oh, my goodness!”
Sydney and Jade placed their attention on her, and Sydney waved her hand in front of her twin’s face. “I’ve never seen you smile like that before. I know he’s gorgeous, but stop drooling.”
Megan shook her head as she tried to calm her smile and excitement down, but it was no use especially when he turned his head as if he sensed her staring at him. Their eyes locked, and a charming smile crept across his breathtaking, chiseled face. He nodded knowingly as he took a step in her direction but a couple stepped in his path for conversation. Even though he conversed with them, his eyes on hers never faltered.
Jade tapped her on the shoulder. “Megan, do you know who you’re making goo-goo eyes with?”
She nodded. “Yes, that’s him. The man who changed my flat tire.”
“That’s who changed your tire?” Sydney questioned in a surprised tone.
“Yes and apparently he is someone important since everyone seems to know who he is except me.”
“Um…yes…” Jade started. “That’s Georgia state senator Steven Monroe, self-proclaimed lifelong bachelor and one of Atlanta’s most notorious playboys.”