by AC Arthur
Book 3 in the Donovans Series
Fashion model Tia St. Claire keeps things light when it comes to men…no strings, just flings. She’s got her reasons, thank you. But even she finds Trent Donovan hard to resist—he’s sexy, successful, persistent and built for a woman’s wildest dreams. When their one-night stand leaves defiant longings, Tia isn’t sure whether to run, hide or surrender to the former navy SEAL’s rugged charms.
The last of the successful and seriously single “Triple Threat” Donovan brothers still happily unattached, Trent Donovan has dedicated his career to duty and danger. Until desire and beautiful, spirited Tia change everything. Now he’s sleepless over an attraction too powerful to deny, and a secret dilemma with only one way out—following his heart.
Book 3 in the Donovans Series
“You give new meaning to the word untamable,” Lincoln Donovan said, chuckling as he opened the door to his truck and stepped inside.
“What?” Trenton Donovan opened the back door to his older brother’s Suburban and tossed his bags on the floor. “You can’t trust women. Adam’s crazy ex Kim proved that point.”
Trent climbed inside on the passenger side and pulled his seat belt across him as his older brother started the engine.
“All you had to do was have her checked out like you do everybody else. You didn’t have to sleep with her and then walk out on her. And you said she had a child?” Lincoln asked.
Trent defended himself. “First of all, I didn’t sleep with her and walk out. Lynn knew that I wasn’t looking for anything long term. I told her as much when I realized we were feeling each other. And as for the kid, Jeremy was pretty cool. But where there’s a child there’s bound to be a daddy and that leads to trouble.”
“Like I said, you could have just checked her out. You were working with her brother on a case so you probably shouldn’t have messed with her in the first place. Sam Desdune is never going to ask for your help again,” Linc chided.
Trent had thought the same thing himself after the one night he spent with Lynn, but by that point it was too late. To her credit, Lynn hadn’t taken the night they’d celebrated the capture of her younger sister’s stalker any more seriously than Trent had. Her own issues with her runaway ex-husband and her young son were her priorities, not trying to build something with Trent.
It had been an impulsive act, one that he regretted only in the sense that he’d used Lynn Desdune as a replacement for the one woman who continued to elude him.
They were driving down the highway on their way to the Donovan family estate. Henry and Beverly Donovan were fanatical about their family. And since Trent was the middle child, the renegade of the three sons formally dubbed the Triple Threat Donovans, they paid special attention to him.
After a two-month assignment in Connecticut, he’d recently returned home to Vegas and was welcomed by sonogram pictures of the twins growing in Jade’s stomach. Jade and Linc had been married for almost six months and already she was pregnant. Linc was so excited he practically had father-to-be tattooed on his forehead.
Once at the estate Trent was sure that his younger brother Adam and his fiancée, Camille, would be there. Noelle, Jade’s younger sister would come along sharing her latest escapade. Noelle was a burst of energy in the low-key Donovan household. However, Trent had to admit that her reckless nature was beginning to subside. He suspected Linc and the trust he showed by hiring her at the Gramercy Casino was the reason for that.
At any rate, the hot shower, spicy wings and stack of Sports Illustrated magazines waiting for him back at his townhouse would have to wait. Family was very important to him and he wanted to spend quality time with everyone especially since he’d just witnessed two close-knit families almost torn apart by revenge.
That reminded him that he needed to really give some thought to Sam Desdune’s offer. Partnering with Sam and opening a P.I. agency on the West Coast was something he needed to seriously consider.
Trent and Sam had met years ago on an assignment for the military and remained close afterward. A former police officer in the sleepy town of Greenwich, Connecticut, Sam now owned his own P.I. firm. Trent had flown to the East Coast to assist Sam and one of his high-profile clients with a particularly sensitive investigation.
For twelve years Trent had been a Navy SEAL putting his life on the line to protect and serve his country. He loved his job and though he had officially left the Navy, he still accepted special assignments. That worried his mother, which he didn’t like, but it was his life. If he didn’t help fight everyone else’s battles, what good would he be?
“Heads up,” Linc said pulling into the driveway of the estate an hour later. “Camille’s got a bone to pick with you.”
“Camille? What did I do to her?”
Linc only shook his head laughing as he parked and stepped out of the truck. “Man, you just don’t know. Women don’t forget a thing.”
Trent stopped listening to Linc’s warning as they walked into the house. He was happy to be back in Vegas but there were some things he could do without.
Tia St. Claire’s head pounded with what she knew would be a hellacious headache. She realized it was because the two-year “anniversary” of her accident was fast approaching. She couldn’t help but count down these last dreaded days.
Last year at this time she’d been working, doing a runway show in Paris one night, then flying to Milan for one there and then coming back to L.A. for a photo shoot. In between she’d done promo shots to update her portfolio and met with her agent. She’d worked from January first straight through and past March second, the day of the accident. That had been the only way to cope with the pain—and using the jet lag as an excuse to sleep every hour that she wasn’t modeling.
This year she was working again, but she wasn’t traveling back and forth. And whenever she wasn’t in front of the camera she was feeling the pain.
When she was finally alone in her apartment she slumped down into the nearest chair. With the backs of her hands she wiped her face clean only to have warm tears slip from her eyes again.
It wasn’t her fault, she knew that. Jake had been driving and she’d been in the passenger seat. As if it were yesterday she heard the squeal of the tires, felt the uncontrollable spin of the car, the lurch of her heart in the precise moment the car slid into the tree. In an instant the two people that she loved most were gone—her fiancé, Jake, and their unborn daughter, Jessica.
Her life was spared although she had no idea why. Work was her only solace.
At least it had been.
She’d been modeling for so long that it was almost like breathing. So even though the photo shoots were normally filled with photographers, hairstylists, designers and the other people who just always seemed to be around either backstage or in the studio, Tia would usually sink into herself.
While her body moved, her mind functioned on autopilot and her thoughts and feelings were her own. That may seem weird to a novice but, for her, even walking down the runway provided solace to her tortured soul. The crowds were blurred out so that all she saw was the darkness, the same darkness that had engulfed the ones she’d loved. When she was on the runway, she was with Jake and Jessica.
Camille Davis was the phenomenal woman behind CK Davis Designs. Tia had been ecstatic when her agent had booked her for their fall fashion show. From there Camille had specifically requested her for other assignments until the bulk of Tia’s time was now spent working for Camille and modeling her fabulous designs.
That, of course, was not the bad part. The irony came when Camille had introduced Tia to Adam and the rest of the Donovan family. They were a lively bunch with the seniors, Henry and Beverly, still madly in love after years of marriage. Jade and Linc were almost sickening to watch together, their happiness pouring from them in heavy waves. Then there was Camille herself and the infamous Adam Donovan. Their love was pure, of the fairy-tale type, the kind that little girls dreamed of.
Soon after they’d met, Camille had shared the story of how Adam had swept her off her feet like her very own Prince Charming, helping her to defeat her wicked stepmother and all. The love between the two of them was more than crystal clear, the fantasy, for them, more than real.
The dream Tia had once had.
The entire clan and their happiness exacerbated the fact that Tia was alone. She’d chosen to be alone, that was true, but she’d never felt its impact like she did these days. Once upon a time she’d wanted a husband and a family and that dream had quickly come crashing down, so it was her firm belief that those things were not meant for her. But every once in a while…
“Stop it,” she berated herself and moved to the mini-refrigerator. Yanking it open she retrieved a bottled water and unscrewed the top. She took three big gulps, then added a deep breath and felt herself calming considerably.
Tia really didn’t begrudge the Donovans their happiness and she genuinely like them all, well, she liked the majority of them.
The Donovans were a very reputable family in Las Vegas. Henry and Beverly Donovan both came from old money, circling back to oil rigs in Texas and global financiers. Now the retirees spent the majority of their time either traveling or promoting various charities and organizations that focused on topical issues such as health care for all, pediatric HIV/AIDs victims and domestic violence.
The family was well-known throughout the U.S., which made them and their offspring fair game to the media circus.
He was another matter all together.
Trenton Donovan, the middle child and last of the Triple Threat Donovan Brothers, at least that’s what the papers called him. To Tia, he was just an arrogant pain in the ass.
He’d gotten her number from Camille and called Tia for two weeks straight after they’d had to model together in a charity fashion show last fall. Tia would readily admit that the man was fine. Hell, he was beyond fine. Tall, way over six feet, built like two average men combined to make one superhero-like body and a face that would make a woman wet just looking at him.
His skin was a soft mocha tone, his eyes dark and ominous. Not normally a woman fascinated by the facial features of a man, Tia had, however, committed Trent’s features to memory. He was clean shaven, unlike his brothers. That should have given him a boyish look; instead, it enhanced his dangerous aura. A sharp chin and firm mouth made him always appear serious. His no-nonsense way of talking said he meant business all the time.
And Tia couldn’t stand him.
She’d finally called him back after growing tired of his phone messages.
“I’m calling to inform you that stalking is punishable by jail time,” she’d said the moment he answered the phone.
“Merry Christmas to you, too,” he’d said, his voice sending a shiver down her spine.
Tia had tried like hell to keep her resolve. “If I wanted you to call me I would have given you my number. On second thought, if you wanted to call me you probably should have asked for my number instead of getting it from someone else.”
“Wait a minute, are you upset about something?”
“Upset? That’s an understatement. Normally a man asks my name and then asks for my number. I don’t recall you doing either.”
“My soon-to-be-sister-in-law is Camille Davis. She told me your name. And you were so busy with your little fan club at the party after the fashion show, I didn’t get a chance to ask you anything.”
She sighed deeply. “Be that as it may, I don’t appreciate your uninvited phone calls. I want them to stop.”
He’d grown silent and for a moment she thought he may have hung up on her.
But then he spoke again. “Why don’t you take a minute to calm down and we’ll start this conversation all over again.”
“Why don’t you get over yourself? Every woman is not ready to fall at your feet, nor are they excited by your initiative to get to know them better. And for the record I’m one of them.”
“Hold on a second. All I did was call to ask you out to dinner.”
“And I just happened to be that woman? This week? I know how you work and I’m not buying it, so you can just find yourself another flavor of the month. As a matter of fact, did I ask you to call? Did I give you permission to call?”
She cut him off. “Then I’d advise you not to call me anymore. It’s as simple as that!”
Now, three months later, replaying the conversation in her head, she wondered if she had been a bit harsh. That wasn’t normally her nature, but she didn’t care. Trent Donovan was definitely used to getting what he wanted from women. And from the persistence in his voice on her answering machine she knew exactly what he wanted from her. Too bad he wasn’t going to get it.
That last statement was easier for her to say than actually believe. Especially since she hadn’t stopped thinking about him since the night of the fashion show. He was attractive, but that was an understatement—he was a Donovan after all. And while she normally wasn’t that focused on what was going on around her as she worked, the moment he’d touched her she’d been more than aware of his presence. It had begun as a slow burn then moved through her until it was a full-blown tornado storming through her, demanding her attention.
Luckily the after party was crowded, affording her the perfect opportunity to put distance between herself and the renowned Mr. Donovan. She had no other choice. Tia had learned her lesson: it was much better to be safe than sorry.