Harlequin KISS – April 2014
mills & boon Amazon UK
‘Can you honestly say you don’t want me?’
Lily Montgomery finds the perfect antidote to an anticlimactic New Year’s Eve: a hot, up-against-the-door one-night stand with a sexy millionaire. Trouble is, the man in question is Kit, the ex-husband she's spent five years getting over.
For Kit Buchanan, the past few years have been hellish! He’s conquered the business world, but when it comes to the bedroom he’s had the mother of all dry spells. Clearly he needs to get Lily out of his system once and for all!
But one supercharged night later, Kit’s not so sure. After all, why move on when he’s having so much fun where he is?
Lily Montgomery first made an appearance as Zoe’s sister in The Reunion Lie, when Zoe borrowed details of Lily’s relationship with Kit to create her fictitious boyfriend. It subsequently turned out that after a whirlwind romance ‘zany and creative’ Lily had ‘a brief but turbulent marriage’ followed by ‘the divorce to end all divorces’, and, while outgoing and fun, was deeply anti-men, her ex-husband in particular.
She sounded like an interesting girl with a stormy past and an intriguing ex, and the opportunity to explore her and Kit’s story – a tale about having a second stab at love and getting the rare chance to put right all the things that went wrong first time round – was too irresistible to pass up!
Right. That was it. Enough was enough.
As the last of Big Ben’s twelve bongs echoed through the night and the sky began to explode with fireworks, Kit Buchanan knocked back the inch of whisky that was left in his glass and glowered at the dazzling display erupting over the Thames beyond the floor-to-ceiling windows of his penthouse suite.
Forget the work he’d lined up to do this evening; he hadn’t touched it anyway. Forget the fact that it was the middle of the night and freezing cold; what with the burning sensation of the alcohol and the relentlessness of the thoughts drumming through his head he felt as if he were on fire.
And forget the fact that he was about to embark on a course of action that probably required a good deal more consideration than the ten minutes he’d just given it.
He needed to sort out the mess he was in. Now.
For five years he’d been suffering. Five long, torturous, frustrating-as-hell years, and he’d finally had it. He was through with the lingering guilt, the excruciating tension and the crippling anxiety, all of which vibrated through him pretty much constantly and all of which he’d had to live with for far too long. He’d had enough of beating himself around the head with more self-recrimination and regret than any man needed to experience in one lifetime.
And he was sick of having no option but to split up with the women he dated.
The last one, Carla, whom he’d been seeing for a month and with whom he’d broken up just a few hours ago, he’d liked more than usual. He wouldn’t have minded seeing a bit more of her, seeing where the relationship might head.
But that was pretty impossible given the problem he suffered, wasn’t it?
It really couldn’t go on.
Kit slammed the glass down on his desk and made a quick call to commandeer one of his hotel’s limousines. Then he grabbed his coat and strode towards the lift. He punched the little round button and waited, bristling with impatience as his mind churned with details of the trouble he had with sex.
For the first couple of years following his divorce he hadn’t been too bothered by his inability to function in bed. He’d told himself that after what he’d done he’d deserved it, and would willingly take the punishment. He’d assured himself that it wouldn’t last for ever, and that as he wasn’t a hormone-ridden, sex-obsessed teenager he could live with it.
But depressingly—and worryingly—it had lasted, and when matters hadn’t improved a year or two later he’d begun to get a bit concerned.
And while pride and the potential for total humiliation had stopped him from doing anything about it initially, eventually he’d gritted his teeth and summoned up the courage to make an appointment with his doctor.
Which hadn’t helped in the slightest.
The doctor had told him that there was nothing physically wrong with him and had suggested that perhaps his problem was psychological. He’d recommended a course of therapy, which had been pointless largely because Kit hadn’t been able to bring himself to be entirely open and honest with the therapist about his relationship with Lily or the circumstances surrounding their divorce.
After that he’d tried almost every option that was left, astounding himself with the lengths he’d been willing to go to to find a cure. He’d read books, scoured the Internet, and acquainted himself with homeopathy. Plumbing the depths of desperation, he’d even given hypnosis a shot.
But he needn’t have bothered with any of it because nothing he’d tried had worked, and it had been driving him nuts.
This evening, after he’d said a regret-laden goodbye to Carla, he’d racked his brains for any course of action he might have missed, anything that might help, and it had suddenly struck him that there was something he hadn’t tried.
It wasn’t guaranteed to succeed, he thought, his jaw tight and a deep frown etched on his forehead as the lift doors opened with a sibilant swoosh and he strode inside, and God knew it wasn’t in the slightest bit appealing, but if the only avenue left open to him was to head straight to what the therapist had suggested might be the source of his problem—namely his ex-wife—and to see if talking might work where everything else had failed, then that was what he’d do, because frankly he couldn’t stand this affliction any longer.
Lily leaned against the kitchen counter for support and wondered what more the evening held in store for her in the shock-to-the-system stakes, because if there was anything else waiting in the wings she was off to bed the minute she hung up.
‘That’s right,’ replied her sister, her voice holding a thread of excitement and happiness that should have been infectious but for Lily, who held the institute of marriage in deep mistrust, wasn’t.
‘What do you mean, who to?’ said Zoe, her laugh of disbelief echoing down the line. ‘Dan, of course.’
‘But I thought you’d split up.’ With the hand that wasn’t holding her mobile to her ear, Lily emptied the remains of the champagne bottle into her glass, and took a much-needed gulp.
‘Didn’t you say you were over for good?’
‘I did. And I genuinely thought we were.’
Lily lowered her glass and frowned as she tried to make sense of what her sister was saying. ‘So what happened?’
‘Tonight happened,’ said Zoe with an uncharacteristic dreamy sort of sigh. ‘He came to find me.’
‘Where are you?’ Judging from the thumping music in the background it sounded as if Zoe was out, somewhere busy, which in itself was unusual given she spent practically every evening in cuddling up to her computer.
‘I’m at a party.’
‘A party?’ Lily echoed, faintly reeling all over again because while going out in the first place was rare her socially inept sister had always considered attending parties a fate worse than death.
‘I know,’ said Zoe, her delight clear in her voice. ‘Can you believe it? I can’t. But anyway Dan showed up about an hour ago, rescued me from an overenthusiastic dance partner and then basically told me he realised what a jerk he’d been and apologised in the loveliest way imaginable. It was very masterful. Very romantic.’
There was a pause while Zoe presumably drifted off into a blissful memory of the moment before dragging herself back to the conversation. ‘Then he proposed,’ she added dreamily, ‘and I said yes.’
Just like that? A few softly spoken magical words and Zoe had fallen headlong into Dan’s arms? That didn’t sound like her ever logical sister any more than dreamy romance did, yet there was no denying that it appeared that that was exactly what had happened.
Hmm, thought Lily, an odd ribbon of apprehension rippling through her. Tonight was turning out to be unexpectedly and oddly unsettling. ‘But didn’t you say over Christmas that you wouldn’t take Dan back even if he were the last man on earth and he came crawling on his knees?’ she asked.
‘Oh, well, that was then,’ said Zoe lightly, as if the fortnight of tears and misery Lily had just mopped up had never happened, as if she hadn’t swung between despair and fury like some kind of demented pendulum, as if she hadn’t given her surprisingly large repertoire of four-letter words an extensive airing. ‘But now it’s all fine and we’re engaged. Isn’t it great?’
Lily took another gulp of champagne and thought that she wasn’t so sure it was all that great. She’d been there, done that, and while she might not be the older of the two she was definitely the wiser when it came to marriage. In her brief but turbulent experience it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, as she’d spent the last half an hour only too vividly and infuriatingly remembering. ‘But you’ve only known him, what? A couple of months?’
‘Don’t you think it’s a bit soon?’
‘You were married within six,’ Zoe pointed out.
‘And look what happened there,’ said Lily darkly. A mere two years after they’d met and embarked on a whirlwind romance she and Kit had divorced. She’d married in haste and had ended up very much repenting at leisure. Not that she thought much about it these days. Normally.
‘Dan isn’t Kit,’ said Zoe, beginning to sound a little defensive.
‘I should hope not.’
‘And I’m not you.’
‘That’s true,’ Lily said, suppressing a sigh. ‘You’re a lot more level-headed and mature than I ever was. And older. But are you sure you know what you’re doing?’
‘Absolutely,’ said Zoe with a quiet firm certainty that Lily had never heard from her before. ‘He’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me so be happy for me, Lil,’ she added. ‘Please?’
The plea was so soft, so sincere, so beseeching that Lily felt a sudden and unexpected wave of guilt and remorse sweeping through her. What was she doing? She was ruining what was the happiest night of her sister’s life, and why? Because, unsettled by the last half an hour, she was only thinking about herself and her experience. What kind of sister was she?
Pinching the bridge of her nose, Lily closed her eyes and took a deep steadying breath.
Just because she and Kit had made a mess of things didn’t mean that Zoe and Dan would. Maybe her sister’s would be one of the marriages that lasted. Dan was great, Zoe was great, so maybe they’d be fine. It happened, she’d heard.
And just because her night had nosedived and she’d been unexpectedly hit by a deluge of memories about what had been right about her own marriage and then a double whammy of regret and self-recrimination over what had gone wrong, that didn’t give her the right to dampen Zoe’s happiness.
Determinedly pushing her cynicism aside Lily pulled herself together. ‘I am happy for you,’ she said, pasting a smile on her face that she made sure her voice reflected.
‘Really,’ she said even more firmly. ‘I’m sorry I wasn’t more enthusiastic earlier. It was unexpected and I was just a bit surprised, that’s all. Congratulations. I hope—no, I know—you’ll both be very happy.’
‘Thanks and we will.’
Lily heard the elation and the hope in her sister’s voice and felt her heart squeeze. ‘I think I might be the teensiest bit jealous,’ she said. Because she could remember how Zoe was feeling all too well. The giddy happiness. The permanent grin. The excitement about the future…
‘Are you all right, Lil?’
‘I’m fine,’ she said, to her irritation her voice cracking a little.
Down the line came a sharp intake of breath and the sound of the heel of a hand hitting a forehead. ‘Oh, crap. Tonight’s your anniversary, isn’t it?’
What would have been her seventh. Not that she’d been counting. Until the clock had struck midnight and she’d been reminded of it at the most inconvenient moment imaginable. ‘It is, but it doesn’t matter.’
‘Of course it does,’ said Zoe. ‘God, I’m sorry. And here’s me banging on about Dan and getting engaged and stuff. I really am quite spectacularly insensitive. I should have thought.’
Lily shrugged as if it didn’t bother her in the slightest. Which it didn’t. Generally. ‘Forget it.’
‘Want to talk about it?’
‘Quite.’ She didn’t want to even think about it, let alone talk about it, although that was proving annoyingly difficult to achieve this evening.
‘OK, well, call me if you do. Any time. Really.’
Lily knew she meant it. Zoe had been a rock following the divorce, and looking back Lily didn’t know how she would have got through it without her. ‘Thanks. I will.’
‘Look, I’d better go. It’s late and you have an early flight.’
‘It is and I do.’ A smile spread across her face at the thought of the week’s holiday she’d booked following the week of work she had to do first. It would be the first holiday she’d had in ages and she couldn’t wait. ‘And shouldn’t you be snuggling up to Dan instead of calling me?’
‘Plenty of time for that later, I hope. Anyway, he’s gone to get our coats and I wanted you to be the first to know.’
Lily’s smile deepened. ‘Thanks. You do realise that the second I get back I’ll be grilling you for details?’
‘You might regret saying that.’
‘Never. I want to hear every single—’
The ring that reverberated through the silence of the house cut off her sentence and made her jump.
‘What’s that?’ asked Zoe.
‘Someone at the door,’ she said, her smile fading and her heart sinking a little at the thought of who it might be. ‘I should go.’
‘Are you sure you ought to be answering it this late?’ said Zoe, sounding like the older sister she was. ‘I mean, I know there are first-footers and whatnot around, but you are on your own and it is well past midnight.’
‘Don’t worry, it’ll probably be Nick,’ said Lily, despondently pushing herself off the counter and heading into the hall. ‘He left his scarf.’ She’d texted him to say she’d put it in the post, but maybe, despite the disastrous outcome of the evening, he didn’t want to have to wait that long and had decided returning to pick it up was a risk worth taking.
At the interest in Zoe’s voice, Lily inwardly cringed because Nick was history, that was what he was. Unfortunately.