A Bad Boy is Good to Find

Chapter 1

“What is that?” Her brown eyes widened as her finger lifted off his skin.

She’d discovered his tattoo. He had a tendency to forget about it since it wasn’t where he could see it.

“It’s…a family crest.” He stroked her cheek.

“Oh.” She smiled. “I see. It does look like a fleur-de-lis.” She touched it, then pulled her hand back under the sheets.

Good save. You learned to be resourceful when you had a flaming dagger tattooed on your ass. Somehow she’d gotten hold of the idea he, Conroy Beale, was descended from French aristocracy, and he didn’t want to deprive her of that happy delusion. Who knows? Maybe he was.

Anything seemed possible lately.

“You smell nice,” he whispered as he snuggled up closer. Lizzie Hathaway smelled like a plump overripe rose. Felt like one too. Silky skin on silky sheets in her comfy apartment. Heaven.

“It’s a personalized scent. I had it mixed for me by an olfactory specialist at a scent boutique in the East Village.”

“Cool.” Yeah, smooth, Con. Rich girls did leave him speechless though. He pushed her long curls aside and kissed her hot cheek. “Roses and vanilla? Smells like sweetness and innocence.”

“Smells can be deceptive.”

“I don’t doubt it.” In this case, he thought the smell was pretty damn close. Despite her old-money New York upbringing, Lizzie was quiet and shy, more comfortable in a bookstore than a cocktail bar, and he liked her just fine for it. The world could use more sweetness and innocence. He sure hadn’t run across too much until now.

“I wonder what your custom-blended scent would be.” She brushed his chin with a fingertip.

Hmm. Axle grease and champagne?

Bottle it and call it Contradiction.

“What do you think would reflect me?” He looked her dead in the eye.

“Hmm…” Her plump pomegranate lips curved into a smile. Pretty. “Horses, sweat, and wild alpine flowers.”

“I don’t know about horses, but sweat, I can give you.” They’d worked up quite a sweat already.

“Maybe the flower should be a fleur-de-lis?” She squeezed his butt and his cock leapt to attention.

“Sounds good to me.” He leaned forward and kissed her gently on the lips. “You make me happy, Lizzie. You know that?” He buried his face between her breasts worshipfully and didn’t try to hide the shudder of lust that followed. “You’re a unique woman.”

“And you’re a very unique man.”

If you only knew.

He looked at her steadily, not wanting to complicate things with more words. The less lies between them, the better, as they’d all come out in the wash sooner or later.

Her whole face shone with the unspoken connection between them that took his breath away. She tugged at his shirt buttons with a hungry look in her eyes. Lizzie Hathaway wanted him as badly as he wanted her and wasn’t afraid to show it.

Which made him hard as a gun barrel.

Oh, Lizzie.

He trailed kisses down her pulsing neck, over her breasts and belly. Shucked off that blue satin and dove into the hot warmth waiting below, licking and cajoling her into a place where it didn’t matter who they were or where they came from.

Her breathing quickened and he instinctively filled his mouth with a rosy nipple. As he suckled, burying his face in rose-scented warmth, she lost it—gushing low groans that unraveled him too. Lizzie genuinely drove him crazy with her lush, mobile body and her inhibitions all undone.

When the blood returned to his brain he slid off her. Slowly, reluctant to give up the delicious closeness that was the best part of sex. He cuddled up to her, settling his head on one soft arm, his cheek against her breast. Bliss.

She stroked his cheek affectionately and a sensation of perfect contentment softened his limbs. He’d take his moments of perfection where he could get ’em. So he’d let her get the impression that he was a big shot—was that a crime? Once they were married…

Yes. Married.

A hot, tight feeling in his chest told him his plan was right, even though some people might say it was wrong. His life had been a long strange trip, and he craved a permanent berth in Lizzie Hathaway’s calm harbor.

He wasn’t marrying her for the money, but the money would make it work. Keep her living in the style she was used to. It was her money, so her parents couldn’t cut her off.

And once they were married he’d make her the happiest woman on earth for the rest of her life.

Ronkonkoma. Yaphank. Hampton Bays. Lizzie’s blood pressure ratcheted with each green highway sign she passed. She’d left early to avoid the Friday night Hamptons-bound traffic, but now she wished she’d stretched the journey out as long as she could. She knew tonight wasn’t going to be easy. Nothing in her life was ever easy.

For a start, it was no picnic being an “heiress.” Everyone expected you to live up to some image of ultimate glamour they had in their head from reading too many princess stories as a kid. You were supposed to be a willowy blonde with roses in your porcelain cheeks and elegant hands that itched to play symphonies. You were supposed to be outgoing, confident and easy to talk to. Demanding and slightly arrogant, yet sweet and lovable.

If you’re not all that stuff, then that’s your problem.

She hit the exit for Southampton too fast and had to turn hard.

Sometimes you weren’t a willowy blonde, you were a “big boned” brunette. Sometimes that “arrogance” was really insecurity, and your best talents were for things that no one appreciated.

And sometimes you fell in love with a person who wasn’t exactly the handsome prince your parents had in mind.

At that point you just have to take charge of your own goddam life.

She slammed on the brakes and screeched to a halt, her bumper inches from a doe’s chest. The stunned deer stared at her for a moment, then scrambled—hooves scraping on the tarmac—back the way it came, over the high privet hedge of an expensively manicured yard.

They all looked the same, these “cottages,” because a gazillion dollars only bought you so much around here. A few thousand square feet of paneled oak and granite countertop and chemical-soaked lawn, the smell of the sea hovering off somewhere beyond the privet.

It was good that she’d come early, and not because of the traffic. Hopefully she’d catch her mother before she dove into a second bottle of wine.

She pulled into the driveway, gravel crunching under her tires and anxiety twisting in her belly.

I don’t care what they say.

I love him.

I’m going to marry him.

“You are not.” Her father’s harsh tone made her jump, since he rarely issued more than a disinterested rumble in her direction. He hadn’t moved, or even looked at her. Just stood there, in his “summer weight” suit, an unlit cigar in one hand.

She wobbled slightly in her high heels. “I don’t understand why you don’t like him. We all had a perfectly nice time last weekend, you said so yourself.”

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