Nick Cooper can't believe he's in Cooper's Corner sharing a room with the object of all his high school fantasies— Danielle Douglass. And that overstuffed, king‐size bed is driving him crazy with wanting her. However, she needs his protection, not his overactive libido. But in these close quarters, just how long will he be able to keep his hands off her?
Under any other circumstances, Danielle would love staying in a cozy inn with the sexy Nick. But right now she's in trouble and shouldn't be so distracted. She should be planning her next move, not indulging in steamy thoughts. The longer Nick's around, the less she's thinking about running and the more she's thinking about seducing him!
Originally published in 2002
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For The Love Of Nick
By Jill Shalvis
Harlequin Enterprise Ltd.
Chapter OneAs if she hadn't just broken the law, Danielle made a full stop at the red light before getting on the highway heading back toward Providence. "Well." She glanced at her passenger. "It's official, you know. We're on the run. Outlaws."
Sadie didn't answer; she was too busy enjoying the breeze from the open window.
"At least the car isn't stolen," Danielle said. "But we have to have it back to Emma tomorrow." She let out a laugh that sounded slightly more hysterical than humorous, and checked the rearview mirror for flashing lights. "I wonder if they'll let us share a prison cell."
Sadie pulled her humongous head back inside and craned her thick neck toward Danielle. Her tongue hung out as she panted her hopeful agreement.
Danielle sighed at her best friend and loyal one-year-old bullmastiff, a dog she'd raised with her boyfriend.
Ex-boyfriend. Ex-psychotic-boyfriend. Luckily Sadie wasn't psychotic. Just unsure of men.
That made two of them. Danielle checked her rearview mirror again, grateful to see nothing but light traffic and the bright colors of spring in the Rhode Island countryside.
Apparently, she'd truly gotten away with it. Stealing Sadie back. She had simply pulled up to Ted's house - where he'd had Sadie staked on the lawn in the sun without water - and released the grateful dog, who'd been nearly beside herself at the sight of Danielle. "I wish you could talk," she said,checking her rear mirror yet again. "Or hug. I could really use a hug."
Sadie stopped panting and looked at Danielle with her heart in her eyes. As if Danielle was her hero.
"Stop that." She glared out the windshield. "I'm not a hero." Her gut twisted. If she had been, she'd have been smart enough to see this coming. Strong enough to protect Sadie.
She'd almost been too late. As it was the poor dog had been underfed in the time Ted had kept them separated. And given the heart-wrenching way Sadie was hanging on Danielle's every movement, she'd been neglected entirely. It was a crime, as Sadie was just a baby, really, albeit a one-hundred-fifty-pound one.
Okay, more like a brick of brawn than a baby, with a broad, well-padded head set on a thirty-four-inch neck sturdy as oak. But she was adorable, and she was Danielle's. Well, half, anyway.
She had no idea how she could even put a roof over their heads, now that Ted had changed the locks on the house, stolen her car, and emptied her checking account.
The police hadn't had time for the case. First of all, the house was Ted's, leaving her with little legal recourse. Second, Ted had bought her the car he'd taken back.
The money though, that had been all hers, hard earned from her job as a professional dog handler. Not that she had legal recourse there, either, as she'd actually given Ted the PIN number for her bank card.
Danielle could handle her stupidity in letting herself get ripped off, but living with the fact she'd nearly lost Sadie to a man who could, and would, hurt her had been untenable.
Sadie, restricted by the seat belt across her body, leaned on Danielle. Hard. Her hug.
The lump in Danielle's throat was more from lingering stress than anything, but comfort was comfort. "Thank you," she said, smiling when Sadie licked her from chin to cheekbone.
But even the superfluous slobber of a lovable bullmastiff couldn't mask the facts. She was truly on the run. She, a woman who followed the rules and was honest to a T, reduced to common criminal status with nothing more than approximately forty-nine dollars in her backpack, her laptop, and a tank of gas in the car she'd borrowed from her friend Emma. "But I couldn't have done anything different," she murmured to Sadie. Not when Ted's sudden and terrifying temper against the dog had become so clear.
How had she been so blind for so long? But she knew the answer to that. Ted had been wealthy, intelligent, gorgeous ... and interested in her, Danielle Douglass, a nobody from the wrong side of the tracks, with no father and a distant-hearted mother who'd had little to give her daughter.
In comparison, Ted had paid attention to her, he'd made her his world.
God, that hurt, that she'd been shallow enough to fall for a few good lines and a pretty smile. Only the smile hadn't lasted, as Ted gradually had reeled her in, absorbing her life into his, leaving her uncertain, unbalanced, and more alone than she'd ever been, despite the fact she'd been alone a lot.
His rage against Sadie had been the last straw. Danielle knew he was reacting to the fact she loved the dog more than him, that his pride was hurt, and maybe also the fact Sadie had lost her last dog show, but it didn't matter.
She was out of his life. And God help her, so was Sadie.
She was so tired. The result of sleeping in the borrowed car for a week, using a friend's shower when she dared, biding her time until she could steal her own dog back.
Not that the law would see it that way, as Ted held all of Sadie's papers in his safe. With time and money, Danielle figured she could try to prove otherwise, that while they had shared physical custody of the dog, it had been her to provide the love and comfort.
Excerpted from For The Love Of Nick by Jill Shalvis
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