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Promo Post: Remind Me by Ann Marie Walker, Amy K. Rogers

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First in a tantalizing new trilogy about reigniting a forbidden desire from long ago…

As heiress to a media empire Alessandra Sinclair was raised to put family obligations first. But everything changes the night her first love walks back into her life and turns her whole world upside down. Haunted by the memories of a secret romance with a boy from the wrong side of the tracks, she can't seem to get Hudson Chase out of her mind. Once again torn between two worlds, Allie must decide how much she’s willing to risk to have the love she’s always longed for.

Ten years is a long time to wait, but billionaire Hudson Chase didn’t become CEO of one of the country’s fastest growing companies by giving up on what he wants. Now that he’s got Allie in his sights again, he’s determined to make her regret breaking his heart. And this time, he’s going to make damn sure he’s not so easy to forget.

Includes a preview of Release Me, book two of the Chasing Fire trilogy.
An Excerpt From
Remind Me
Chapter One
There were few things in life Hudson Chase couldn’t control. He’d conquered Wall Street, dominated the business world, and had a net worth that made him a regular on the pages ofForbes. But rushing a woman when she was getting ready for a black tie affair was a power even he didn’t possess.
“Cut the overhead by twenty percent.” With the cell phone tucked under his chin, Hudson’s free hand pushed up his sleeve. He stole a glance at the platinum watch peeking out from under his French cuff before turning his attention back to the hired suit billing by the hour on the other end of line. The bastard had the balls to feed him an endless stream of excuses.
“The ‘how’ isn’t my problem.” Hudson’s tone was razor sharp. “That’s why I pay your law firm a ridiculous amount of money.” He crooked a finger, tugging at his black bow tie. How long does it take to put on lipstick and a pair of shoes, anyway?
Just when he’d reached his limit, the limo door swung open to reveal a red dress and a set of legs splitting open a convenient slit to heaven. Goddamn if he didn’t plan to have his head in the clouds.
Sophia slid onto the bench seat beside him and adjusted her gown, optimizing his view as she languidly crossed her legs. The dress clung to her, accentuating voluptuous curves maintained by the top trainers in Chicago. Hudson’s gaze swept over every inch then settled on the Harry Winston nestled between her breasts.
The limo pulled away from the curb and he immediately hit the button to raise the privacy screen.
“Liquidate the assets we discussed,” he said, cutting off the suit from enjoying the sound of his own voice. His hand came to rest on Sophia’s knee. “This isn’t personal, it’s business. Start letting people go on Monday.”
As the limo picked up speed down Michigan Avenue, so did Hudson’s hand. He smoothed his palm up Sophia’s leg while listening to his lawyer fast talk his way back into good graces. Just picturing the sweat forming on the guy’s brow caused Hudson’s mouth to curve into a satisfied smirk.
“No, tomorrow. I’m attending an event tonight.” And hell if it was by choice. Hudson would have preferred to simply cut a check to the charity and spare himself the glad-handing. He’d been flying under the radar since his arrival in Chicago, but with his name going up on a building, his PR department decided it was time for him to make the rounds. Their persistence was the only reason he was sitting in a godforsaken limo being strangled by a motherfucking bow tie.
Hudson glanced at Sophia as she purposefully uncrossed her legs. His eyes flared slightly at the panties she wasn’t wearing. “Keep me posted,” he said, abruptly ending the call.
The limo rolled to a stop just as his hand slid between Sophia’s thighs.
Well, fuck.
The Field Museum of Natural History soared above them with stately columns lit from below and banners announcing the latest exhibits flapping in the late September breeze. Hudson climbed out as soon as the valet opened the door, eager to get this shit over with. Make a donation, shake a couple hands, then he was out of there. He buttoned his tuxedo jacket and offered Sophia his hand. She placed her palm into his, strategically exiting the limo without flashing the waiting photographers. He pulled her into to his side and his lips brushed her temple. “We’re not staying long.”
She ran a finger along his jaw. “I hope not.”
Hudson cocked a grin that was more forced than genuine. He knew Sophia wanted to be more than just a leisurely fuck. She wanted to be Mrs. Hudson Chase and there wasn’t a chance in hell that was happening. He wasn’t interested in walking down the proverbial aisle. With anyone. Ever.
Sophia was nothing more than a current distraction.
They stepped onto the red carpet and cameras lit up like the damn Fourth of July. Sophia leaned into him, offering a seductive smile to each photographer who called their names.
She was in her element. Hudson was on autopilot.
This sort of thing grated on his last nerve. But he’d made the effort to be there, might as well document it. He let them snap some pictures, gave a few brief nods, and then was ready to move on.
With his hand on the small of her back, he guided Sophia up concrete steps littered with guests entering the building checkbook first. Once inside, he scanned the room for the nearest bar. He had expected endless rows of tables for ten where he’d be trapped for hours talking to whoever had been seated next to him for a dinner of rubber chicken under an indistinguishable sauce. But the room before him was far from anything he expected. Swathes of sheer fabric cascaded down walls, vaulted archways glowed with ambient lighting, and plush rugs formed seating areas where coffee tables replaced dinner tables and overstuffed couches replaced straight back chairs. The entire place had a high-end club vibe.
“Mr. Chase.”
Hearing his name, Hudson turned. An older gentleman was beating a path his way. His hand was already extended and judging by the look on his face, he was gearing up for a request.
Sophia touched Hudson’s forearm, but her attention was on the room. “I’m heading to the bar,” she said, her eyes already scanning the crowd. “Can I get you a scotch?”
For a moment he thought about following her simply to escape a conversation he already knew he didn’t want to have. “Blue Label. Make it a double.”
“Elliot Shaw,” the man said, somewhat out of breath, “executive editor, Chicago Magazine. So glad to run into you. I’ve left several messages with your assistant.”
Hudson shook his hand. “What can I do for you, Mr. Shaw?”
“I’d like to feature you in our annual ‘Power 100’ issue.”
“That’s handled by my PR department. I suggest you talk to them.”
“I have,” Shaw politely persisted, “but we want more than a standard press package. We’d like an exclusive interview.”
Hudson was about to cut him off when Shaw played his trump.
“In return we’re willing to offer you the cover of the issue and rank you number one on the list. Not every day someone moves to town with the clout to knock Oprah off her throne.” Shaw chuckled at his own joke then launched into a well-rehearsed spiel. “In the local market our circulation is larger than People . . .”
Hudson tuned the man out. He was scanning the crowd for his date, and more importantly his scotch.
And then he saw her.
His heart beat like he’d just finished the Chicago Marathon.
The hem of her black dress sat conservatively above the knee and the neckline was far from revealing, yet she was still the sexiest damn woman in the room. Sophisticated and elegant.
She turned towards a petite redhead, revealing the low cut out in the back of her dress and a whole lot of perfect skin.
Holy shit.
Hudson drew a sharp breath. He couldn’t help but wonder what she was wearing underneath. Or how her blonde hair, once released from the pins holding it in place, would tumble in loose curls around her face. Soft waves that would brush like satin across his bare chest . . . his abs . . . his . . .
“. . . Of course the social media element can’t be minimized.” Shaw’s voice yanked Hudson right out of his fantasy.
“Do you know that woman?” He inclined his head in the blonde’s general direction. “Speaking with the redhead?”
Shaw followed his gaze. “Yes, that’s Alessandra Sinclair, the event chair. Her family—”
“Thank you, Mr. Shaw. Excuse me.” Hudson strode confidently through the room, reaching Sophia just as she turned away from the bar with two drinks in hand. He caught her by the elbow without ever breaking stride.
“Careful,” she warned, “this dress cost a fortune.”
Hudson snatched his scotch out of her hand and drained it, skidding the empty glass across a table as he passed. He steered them quickly towards the blonde, his awareness of her heightening with every step. When he was standing behind her, he took a deep breath, steeling himself for her reaction.
“Excuse me. Who should I see about making a rather sizable donation?”
***
Sizable donation? The words were music to Alessandra’s ears. A confident grin spread across her face. Convincing fat cats to part with their cash was her specialty. This guy wouldn’t know what hit him.
She turned around, prepared to give Mr. Potential Donor the full benefit of her charm, and froze.
It couldn’t be.
Her practiced smile slipped as she gaped at him in disbelief. He was older, obviously, and dressed in an Armani tux instead of faded Levi’s. His dark, wavy hair was shorter than it had been and his once wiry frame was replaced with the muscular build of a man well acquainted with the gym. He was taller, his shoulders broader, and even his stance had changed. The boy she’d once known was now a man who exuded an overwhelming sense of masculine power.
So much about him was different and yet his eyes, those gorgeous blue eyes, were exactly the same as she remembered.
“That would be us,” a voice to her right offered. She could barely make out the words over the sound of blood rushing through her ears. “I’m Harper Hayes and this is the event’s chair, Alessandra Sinclair.”
“Alessandra,” the man said, a smirk tugging at the corner of his mouth as he offered his hand. “Hudson Chase.”
For a moment her gaze lingered on his full, sensual lips. His strong, rugged jaw. The designer stubble he wore now made him look even darker and more mysterious than he had when she’d first met him. She wondered how it would feel beneath her fingertips, against her cheek, between her thighs . . .
Harper’s elbow nudged her arm, pulling her from her errant thoughts.
Holy hell, where did that come from?
Alessandra looked up to find Hudson watching her, one brow quirked, and a warm flush crossed her face. She placed her hand in his, hoping he didn’t notice the way her fingers trembled.
“So what’s this you were saying about a donation?” Harper asked.
Hudson held Alessandra’s hand, his eyes locked on hers, as he answered. “Perhaps this is a matter I can discuss with Miss Sinclair over a dance?”
For a moment the atmosphere between them seemed to shift, becoming charged with anticipation as his question hung unanswered in the air. Then the woman on Hudson’s arm interrupted with an exaggerated sigh. She feigned disinterest, inspecting her perfect manicure as she shifted her weight from one stiletto to the other. Alessandra studied her. Curvy in all the right places with legs that went on forever. Lush red lips matched her barely there dress and dark, cascading curls framed a face worthy of a magazine cover. Granted, the magazine would likely be Maxim. But still, she was stunning.
Alessandra quickly withdrew her hand but Hudson’s gaze was steady. “I’m considering writing a large check this evening,” he said. “The least you can do is dance with me.”
“She’d love to,” Harper volunteered.
Alessandra whipped her head around, her narrowed glare meeting Harper’s broad grin.
“Work it,” Harper mouthed as she nudged her forward.
Hudson waited, his blue eyes fixed on her. She knew she should politely decline. She could turn him down and no one would be the wiser. After all, she was the event chair. Any number of responsibilities or pressing issues could be deemed a plausible excuse. But at that moment, she couldn’t think of a single one.
“After you.” He waved her toward the parquet dance floor as his date beat a hasty retreat to the bar. The orchestra began to play Frank Sinatra’s “Summer Wind.” Hudson slid his hand around her waist, pulling her against him with a gentle pressure. “You look lovely as ever,” he said, his breath hot against her ear as he spun her slowly into the crowd.
Alessandra felt a shiver run down her spine. She pulled back to meet his piercing stare and a spark passed between them, so potent it was nearly tangible. She swallowed hard to find her voice, and when she did, blurted out the one question that had been on her mind since she’d discovered him standing behind her. “What are you doing in Chicago?”
His brow creased. “Exercising my right as an American citizen to move about this country.”
She blinked up at him, his cold reply taking her by surprise.
“My business is here.” Hudson stopped dancing and nodded to a photographer poised to snap their photo. “Smile pretty for the camera, Alessandra.”
Flashes fired in rapid succession. “Thank you, Mr. Chase,” the photographer said before scurrying off the dance floor.
She used the brief interruption to regain her composure. “What type of business are you in?”
“I acquire things.” His tone lacked any trace of humor.
So much for making small talk. She stared over his shoulder, watching the other couples sway and turn as they moved around the dance floor. Ms. Maxim Cover Girl was standing under the giant T. rex, scowling from behind her flute of champagne.
Jeez, if looks could kill.
“You’re not doing a very good job convincing me to part with my cash, Ms. Sinclair.”
She reared back to look at him. “You were serious about that?”
He leveled his stare at her and the intensity was almost too much to bear. “I take a million dollars incredibly serious.”
“A million dollars?” Her words came out in a high-pitched squeak. She cleared her throat and lowered her voice. “You want to donate a million dollars?”
“Yes,” he answered matter-of-factly.
Confused, Alessandra stared at him blankly. He’d just pledged a million dollars with no more fanfare than if he’d told her he’d bought a bottle of wine from the silent auction. A million dollars was more than a “sizable” donation. It was four times the highest amount she’d ever received from a single donor. Surely he was joking. How could he not be?
As if reading her mind, Hudson offered a vague explanation. “A lot can change in ten years, Alessandra. Though I see you’re still using your formal name.”
“You’re the only one who ever called me Allie,” she whispered. Her eyes met his, searching for any sign of the boy she once knew. His gaze softened, and for a moment she felt it, the connection that made her knees go weak even now.
Their dance slowed to nothing more than a gentle sway as so much passed unspoken between them. Allie hadn’t even realized she’d stopped breathing until a hand touched her shoulder and she jumped.
Chapter Two
Hudson bit down hard, his jaw flexing. He was convinced he’d rearrange this guy’s face purely for interrupting.
A thick French accent sliced between them. “May I cut in?”
Shock widened Alessandra’s hazel eyes. When she regained her composure, what Hudson saw in them resembled guilt. As if she suddenly realized whose hand was gripping her waist. Her spine straightened and he felt the weight of her hand leave his shoulder.
“Of course,” she said. “Julian, this is Mr. Hudson Chase. Mr. Chase, this is Julian Laurent.”
The pretty boy extended his hand, but not before flipping his hair like he’d just stepped out of a shampoo commercial. “Marquis Julian Laurent,” he said, emphasizing a title that was nothing more than a mouthful of elegant bullshit.
Hudson’s glare narrowed on this grade-A prick. The guy was sizing him up as if he was wearing Men’s Warehouse instead of custom-tailored Armani. There were two options, he decided: mock the smug son of a bitch or serve him up a bunch of “fuck off.”
Option two was arguably not a terrible idea.
Instead he slid his hand off Alessandra’s waist and extended his arm. “Mr. Laurent.”
“Mr. Chase has generously pledged a million dollars to the foundation,” Alessandra said.
Abruptly, Julian’s eyes locked on Hudson’s. His expression was one of pure arrogance. “People donate what they can.”
Option two was beginning to look really good. It would take a minute tops, he thought, to flatten this bastard.
Julian’s stare drifted from Hudson and he smiled. “Alessandra, some guests want to speak with you.”
Hudson’s mouth curved, unable to suppress his amusement at being dismissed. Saving his PR department a clusterfuck of spin doctoring, he dipped his head in a polite bow. “Thank you for the dance, Alessandra,” he said, carefully enunciating her name.
He turned away and the shift was palpable. One encounter with her and the control he’d so carefully mastered was nearly shredded. Every muscle tensed to fight the urge to go after her, to press her against a wall in the dark recesses of the museum and fuck ten years of unresolved lust out of his system. Instead he searched the dense mass of partygoers for his date. Stalking toward her, he caught her wrist. “We’re leaving.”
Sophia set her half-empty champagne glass on a table as they hurried toward the door. “We just got here and I was . . .”
Hudson glared over his shoulder, effectively silencing her. He reached inside his jacket, yanked his phone out of his breast pocket, and ordered in a string of clipped, single syllable words, “Pull the car up.”
He practically dragged her down the stone steps of the museum, the click-clack of those skyscraper heels, which would look fan-fucking-tastic over his shoulders, echoing behind them. By the time they reached the bottom of the steps, the sleek black car was waiting. Hudson urged Sophia through the open limo door and gave the driver a cursory glance.
“Drive until I say otherwise,” he said, unknotting his tie and ducking inside.
***
Allie pushed through the museum doors, welcoming the gust of crisp air. The night had been a huge success. Final numbers wouldn’t be tallied until Monday morning, but all indications were they’d met their goal. She took a deep breath and inhaled . . . smoke? She turned to find Julian cupping his hand around a lighter. “No smoking within fifteen feet of the building,” she reminded him.
“Damn Americans,” he said, talking around a cigarette defying gravity as it dangled from his lips. “Ridiculous laws.”
“It’s meant to protect people from inhaling secondhand smoke.”
Julian threw his arms out wide. “There’s no one here, Alessandra.”
“I really wish you’d quit,” she suggested softly.
A stream of smoke filled the space between them. “I’ll quit when I’m dead.”
“You didn’t have to be so rude.” She started down the stairs and Julian followed.
“Fine. I’ll put it out.” He sounded like a petulant teen.
“I’m not talking about your cigarette. I meant earlier, with that donor.”
“What donor?”
“The one who pledged a million dollars.” She couldn’t bring herself to say his name out loud.
Julian stopped short. “I thought I was very courteous considering he had his hands all over my date.”
“We were only dancing.”
He gave a harsh laugh before continuing down the concrete steps toward the valet. Allie joined him a few moments later and they waited side by side for their limo. A breeze blew across Lake Michigan, sending a cloud of smoke in Allie’s direction. She turned her head and moved closer to the water’s edge. The bright lights of the Navy Pier Ferris wheel blinked patterns of red and gold. Her thoughts drifted as she watched it turn. Had it really been ten years? When she closed her eyes, the memories played through her mind as if it were only yesterday.
The wind kicked up again and she shivered.
“Are you cold?” Hudson asked her.
I’m fine.” She smiled. The summer wind wasn’t the reason Allie shivered. It was Hudson, sitting so close, that made her tremble.
“Here, let me warm you up.” He wrapped his arm around her, pulling Allie tight against him. “I think you can see the whole town from up here.”
Allie hadn’t noticed. Their car had been perched at the top of the carnival’s Ferris wheel for several minutes now as they waited for passengers to load, but she’d barely noticed the view. She couldn’t take her eyes off Hudson Chase. With his black T-shirt, faded jeans, and motorcycle boots, Hudson was what her mother would have called a thug. But Allie knew better. And there, high above the town, no other opinion mattered.
She wanted to stay at the top of that Ferris wheel forever.
“You know,” he said, a devious smile on his face. “If we’re going to be here a while . . .” Allie’s heart raced as Hudson leaned closer, his lips hovering just inches from hers. “We might as well make good use of the time.”
The ride lurched forward and Hudson cursed under his breath as they were swiftly lowered to the exit platform. Allie tried her best to stifle a giggle.
“Oh, you think that’s funny, do you?” Hudson asked. He climbed out of the car and offered her his hand.
“Actually, yes,” she said, grinning from ear to ear.
He gave her hand a sharp tug, pulling her body flush against his. Her breath caught in her throat as his blue eyes locked on hers.
“Hudson!” A voice called out.
Hudson dropped his chin. “This just isn’t my night,” he mumbled.
Allie covered her mouth to hide her smile as Hudson’s little brother, Nick, ran up, completely out of breath. “There you are. I’ve been looking everywhere.”
Hudson laced his fingers with hers. “What’s up, little man?”
“Can I have a dollar?”
“Why do you need a dollar?” Hudson asked, running his free hand through his unruly brown hair.
Nick bounced on the balls of his feet. “I want to play darts.”
“Darts?”
“Yeah. If you break three balloons, you win this awesome remote control race car. Pleeeeeease,” he begged, his words coming out in a rush. “It’s super cool. It’s got flames up the side and these wicked chrome hubcaps. It can spin up on two wheels and make jumps this long.” Nick stretched his arms out as far as he could.
Hudson laughed. “Okay, okay. I get the picture.” He turned to Allie. “Do you mind?”
“Not at all.” Allie couldn’t say no to Nick any more than she could resist his charming older brother.
Hudson flashed her a grin before turning back to Nick. “Lead the way.”
The first three darts clattered to the ground. Nick’s big brown eyes turned glassy but he shook it off. “Probably a piece of crap anyway.”
“Hey, watch your mouth, little man.”
Nick’s face fell. “Sorry.”
Hudson reached into his back pocket for the wallet he kept secured with a silver chain. “Here, let me give it a try.”
Allie watched as Hudson peeled bill after bill out of his wallet. Best she could tell he’d gone through a full shift’s worth of tips by the time he popped three green balloons in a row.
“What color do you want, Nicky?”
Nick walked over to the glass display case. He chewed on his thumbnail as his eyes roamed from one car to the next. After a few minutes he motioned for Hudson to bend down and whispered something in his ear. Allie couldn’t hear all of what he said, but she definitely picked up on the word “girlfriend” said with the kind of exaggeration reserved especially for teasing older siblings. Allie had to bite her lip to keep from laughing at the look on Hudson’s face, but a moment later his expression grew serious.
“But what about the ‘super cool’ race car?” he asked.
Nick looked at Allie as he whispered his reply.
“Are you sure?” Hudson asked.
Nick responded with a huge grin and a nod. The two boys huddled together in front of the glass case. Allie saw Hudson point to something, and when he turned around, he was holding a seashell anklet.
“Nick gave up his prize.” Hudson’s mouth curved into a shy smile. “Wanted me to pick something for you.”
“Aww, thank you, Nick. That was very sweet of you.” She leaned down and planted a kiss on Nick’s cheek. “I love it.”
“Here.” Hudson held out a couple bucks. Nick grabbed the cash and took off, his cheeks blazing red.
“Will you do the honors?”
Hudson dropped to one knee. He wrapped the delicate string of shells around Allie’s ankle and fastened the clasp. When he finished, his hand lingered. Her skin tingled as he slowly brushed his fingertips up her leg, tracing a pattern as he worked his way to the hem of her yellow-and-white sundress.
“So what about me, Allie?” he asked, looking up at her from beneath long dark lashes. “Do I get a kiss, too?”
“What are you waiting for, Alessandra?” a voice asked from behind her.
Allie startled, brought back to the present day by the sound of her name. She turned to find Julian standing by the open limo door. He waved his hand impatiently, his cigarette glowing as if he were landing an aircraft. “In the car, s’il vous plaît.”
Allie ducked into the limo. Julian dropped his cigarette on the sidewalk before sliding in beside her. “Peninsula Hotel,” he told the driver.
“If you don’t mind, I think I’d just like to go to my place.”
He glanced at her before amending his instructions. “Still one stop. North Astor. Fourteen hundred block.”
“I’m really very tired, Julian. I’d rather just go to bed. Alone.” She met the driver’s eyes in the rearview mirror and held up two fingers. “Two stops, please.”
Julian blew out a harsh breath. “You’ve spent the whole evening working the crowd, talking to everyone.”
After a beat, he angled his body toward hers and ran his knuckles up and down her arm. His chin lowered so that he looked up at her from beneath the tousle of light brown hair that fell in a sexy mess across one eye. “What about a little time for me?” he whispered, his accent caressing her every bit as much as his touch. Normally that was all it took to reduce her to an agreeable puddle. But not this time.
The air in the limo felt thick and warm and her temples throbbed.
“It’s been a long night and I have a terrible headache. I think the stress of this event has finally taken its toll.”
Julian’s expression hardened. He dropped his hand and straightened in his seat.
Allie sighed. She hadn’t meant to hurt his feelings. But it was late and she’d hardly slept the past few days. After a good night’s sleep she’d feel more like herself.
“I’m sorry.” She reached across the seat and covered his fingers with hers, giving them a gentle squeeze. When he looked at her, she offered a reassuring smile. “Rain check for tomorrow?”
He pulled his hand free and reached into his breast pocket for a pack of cigarettes. “Fine. Rain check.” The lighter flamed to life and Julian took a long drag, cursing under his breath as he exhaled. “C’est des conneries.”
Cracking the window, Allie stared out across the dark lake as the lights of the Ferris wheel glowed in the distance.
Chapter Three
Allie could hardly believe what she was hearing. She listened intently, pressing the phone to her ear as she tried to commit every word to memory. A flash of red hair caught her eye as Harper charged through the door. She was in the midst of an exaggerated U-turn when Allie waved her into the office.
“You’re very kind, but it really was a team effort,” Allie said into the phone.
Harper’s pleated miniskirt fanned out across her lap as she collapsed into one of the small upholstered chairs facing Allie’s desk. The pattern of bright polka dots was accented perfectly by the multicolored bangles stacked high on her wrist. Although she could never pull it off herself, Allie loved Harper’s quirky style, a cross between Phoebe on Friends and Jess from New Girl, with a dash of Joan from Mad Men thrown into the mix.
“I will. And thank you again for thinking of me.”
Harper raised a single brow. “What was that all about?” she asked the moment Allie hung up the phone.
Allie rounded her desk and shut her office door. “That was Oliver Harris.”
Harper looked confused.
“From the Harris Group.”
The lightbulb turned on. “The PR firm?”
Allie nodded. “Apparently Mr. Harris was at the museum Saturday night. He was just calling this morning to tell me how much he enjoyed the event.” She shuffled a few papers on her desk, trying to play it cool. “And to offer me a job.”
Harper’s eyes grew wide. “No way!”
Allie broke into a huge grin. “He asked me to join his nonprofit division and oversee all event planning.”
“Shit, that’s big time. They’re the ones who did that huge fund-raiser in Lincoln Park last summer.”
“At the zoo?”
“Yup. And I heard it was amazing. They even had Neon Trees.”
“What are neon trees?”
“They’re not a what, Alessandra, they’re a who. A band, actually.”
Having no clue, Allie shrugged.
The look Harper gave her only reinforced Allie’s belief that her friend considered her a total nerd when it came to her choice in music. “Oh, c’mon, you have to know who they are.” As if to prove her point, Harper sang a few lines. “Hey, baby won’t you look my way; I can be your new addiction.”
Allie laughed at Harper’s pitchy vocals and bobbing head. “Okay, okay . . . yes, I’ve heard the song.”
Harper stopped her impromptu concert. “So when do you start?”
Allie sank into her chair. “I don’t.”
“Come again?”
“I thanked Mr. Harris for thinking of me and told him how flattered I was, but that I couldn’t possibly leave my position at Better Start.” With the first charter school only up and running for a little over a month, and the groundbreaking for the second scheduled to take place in the spring, there was no way she could even consider it.
“Look, no one would miss you around here more than me, but I don’t see how you can pass this up. Sounds like your dream come true.”
Under normal circumstances that might have been the case, but Alessandra Sinclair’s life was anything but normal. As the daughter of Victoria Ingram, she’d been born into a family whose name was mentioned in the same breath as Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, and Hearst. With that life of privilege came certain responsibilities, and at the top of that list was family. Nearly every part of Allie’s life was connected to Ingram Media somehow. Always had been. Her grandfather’s empire had touched most of the city in one way or another and from a very young age she’d been taught what was expected of his heirs. Being involved in the family business was simply a given.
After college Allie had spent the better part of two years getting to know Ingram’s various subsidiaries. But it was the time she spent at her family’s charitable foundation that made her feel the most fulfilled, and she’d been working at their newest venture ever since. And not in the way her mother did, squeezing ribbon cuttings and board meetings in between morning tennis and afternoon tea. No, for the past three years Allie had worked long hours at Better Start and she was proud of what they had accomplished.
“I’m happy where I am,” she told Harper. And while that was true, recognition from someone as respected as Oliver Harris meant a lot, especially when a small part of her still wondered if she only held her position because of her name. The opportunity to prove herself on her own merits was certainly tempting, but for Allie the phrase “family first” was non-negotiable.
“If you say so.” Harper’s smile didn’t reach her eyes.
“So what had you so fired up on a Monday morning?” Allie asked, ready to move on to another subject. “You seemed like a woman on a mission when you came through the door just now.”
“Oh my gosh, I almost forgot!” Harper pulled a newspaper out from under the stack of proposals she was carrying and laid it on Allie’s desk. “Page six.”
Allie turned the pages until she came across an image that made her heart skip a beat. It was a photograph taken at the Field Museum.
Of her. In Hudson’s arms.
Event chair Alessandra Sinclair with Chicago’s newest eligible bachelor, business tycoon Hudson Chase.
Her mouth went dry as her eyes roamed from his satisfied grin to the hand curved possessively around her waist. This was more than just another publicity shot from just another charity event. This was the first photo ever taken of the two of them. She’d been heartbroken when their summer romance had ended so abruptly, and not having so much as a single photograph made the loss that much harder to bear. But now there they were in black and white. She stared at the photo, drinking in every detail until the sound of her ringing phone broke its spell.
“Well, aren’t you the popular one this morning,” Harper said.
Allie frowned at her as she snapped the phone off its cradle. “Alessandra Sinclair.”
“Miss Sinclair, attractive photo in the paper this morning. Very photogenic.”
Her breath hitched at the sound of his voice. “Mr. Chase.”
Harper’s eyebrows shot up. She leaned forward, the bangles clinking down her arm as she propped her elbows on the edge of Allie’s desk and rested her chin on her hands.
“I’m glad you called. I never did get the chance to thank you Saturday night.”
“For the money or the dance?”
Allie could almost see his smug smile through the phone. She paused, then chose to ignore his question. “Your donation was very generous.”
“Which brings me to the purpose of this phone call, along with my lack of trust in the noble United States Postal Service,” Hudson said. “I’m sure you’re eager to obtain my . . . generosity.” His voice had changed with the last line. It was darker, almost seductive.
Harper leaned closer. “What is he saying?” she whispered. Honest to God, she was acting like they were teenagers at a sleepover. Allie half expected her to activate the speakerphone, or worse, run around the desk and press her ear to the receiver.
“It’s very kind of you to follow up,” Allie said. “I’d be glad to send a courier over to pick up the check.”
“No, I insist on delivering the check into familiar hands.”
Allie nearly choked on her words. “You want me to pick it up personally?” She knew her voice sounded several octaves too high, but there wasn’t a damn thing she could do about it. She panicked, unsure of how to respond to his unusual request. On the one hand, she owed it to her employer to collect the donation. On the other hand, the last thing she wanted was to see Hudson again. Her eyes drifted down to the photo in the newspaper. Well, maybe not the last thing.
His deep voice interrupted her internal debate. “Yes or no, Miss Sinclair?”
Harper gaped at Allie, her mouth hanging open. “If you don’t go, I will,” she offered. How generous.
“Fine.” She reached for a paper and pen. “Where?”
“My office. This evening.”
Allie quickly scribbled down the address, trying to wrap her head around the fact that in a few hours she would once again be in the same room as Hudson Chase.
Chapter Four
On the south bank of the Chicago River, perched high above the others, Hudson leaned over his desk and slashed his John Hancock on the bottom of a million-dollar check.
The offices of Chase Industries occupied the top six floors of what was previously known as the Leo Burnett building. Made up of granite, glass, and steel, the postmodern structure exuded power and strength and was every bit as masculine as the man who sought it out as his command center.
Hudson set the Montblanc on the mahogany and hit the direct line to his assistant. “I’m expecting Miss Alessandra Sinclair. Show her in as soon as she arrives.”
Straightening, he turned to face the floor-to-ceiling windows that displayed one hell of a showstopping view. As the sun settled behind the skyline, turning the urban sprawl into a shimmering vista, he thought about how ten years ago he wouldn’t have been able to write a ten-dollar check; the crap apartments that offered nothing but a ground-level view, and the pathetic future he’d been segregated into.
Now he carried a black Amex, drove a luxury sports car packing a lot of horses under the hood, and lived in a three-story penthouse that had previously been the HQ of the magazine most teenage boys spent hours with locked up in the bathroom.
He infinitely preferred this life, the control it brought him. He’d done the blood and sweat thing to get here and his hard work had paid off. He had everything he’d ever wanted, except the woman who’d drop-kicked his heart and walked away without so much as a good-bye.
Hudson checked the LeCoultre strapped to his wrist; ten minutes had passed. He was so over this shit.
But some things were worth waiting for.
Just as he reached for the check with an impatient hand, there was a knock at the door, then a male voice. “Mr. Chase, Miss Alessandra Sinclair is here.”
Hudson looked across the immaculate office at his assistant. The guy was a wrestling match between hipster-geek and an ad for J-fucking-Crew. Dollars to shit piles, those horn-rimmed glasses he wore weren’t even prescription. And the bow tie, the motherfucking bow tie. But the guy was a good assistant and didn’t pull any crap.
“Thank you, Darren. That will be all for the evening.”
His assistant’s brow shot up. “Ah, thank you, Mr. Chase. Have a good one.” The surprise on Darren’s face was obvious, a direct correlation to the numerous hours the guy had been pulling at Hudson’s demand. And well compensated for, he might add.
Whoever said being a CEO was a fairy tale had their head up their ass. Sure, you may have the castle in the clouds, climbed the fucking beanstalk to get there, but at the stroke of midnight you were more likely to find yourself wanting a few hours of shut-eye versus waking Sleeping Beauty to go a round with a glass stiletto digging into your ass.
Darren exited the office, grinning like he’d just won the lottery. A second later, Alessandra stepped through the archway.
Damn. She was even more beautiful than he remembered.
“Good evening, Alessandra.” He moved around his desk. “Take your coat?”
“I’m fine.” He could tell by her tone this wasn’t a pleasure call. She was doing her job, nothing more.
“Nice office,” she said. “I saw a crew hanging the new sign downstairs. Did you buy the whole building?
“Not the entire building, no.” A smug grin curved his lips. “But enough that they let me put my name on it.” He leisurely crossed his arms over his chest, watching her with fervent eyes as her gaze slid over the black leather couch, then shifted to the numerous flat screens mounted side by side on the wall. The silence stretched on as she absorbed every detail of her surroundings. The artwork, the view, even his oversize desk. When her stare lingered on the bar showcasing a collection of crystal decanters, he dropped his arms to his sides and shifted his stance. “A drink, perhaps?”
The gold flecks in her eyes shimmered with defiance. “No, thank you.”
Hudson let out a short laugh. “You’re killing my attempts at being a gentleman, Alessandra.”
She reached up to tuck a strand of hair behind her ear. Her blonde curls were down this time, falling in soft waves around her shoulders. As Hudson watched her, he found himself wishing it were his fingers buried in her hair.
“I believe you have a check for me, Mr. Chase?”
“Ah, yes. My generosity.” He twisted around and lifted all those zeros off the desk.
“Thank you. This will go a long way toward making the new school a reality.” She took the check and stuffed it into her purse, then paused and looked at him. “Why did you insist I come here? You could have easily mailed it.”
“As I said on the phone, I lack confidence in the US Postal Service.”
Liar. Fucking liar.
“I offered to send a messenger,” she shot back.
“I wanted to make sure you got the money, Alessandra.” Hudson stared into those amazing eyes of hers. “I know how important it is to you.”
A little wrinkle formed between her eyebrows. “What are you talking about?”
“Your preference for men who are taller when standing on their wallets.” Screw tiptoeing into the minefield; he was going in at an all-out sprint.
“You know nothing about me or my preferences.”
“I know ten years ago you got a good, hard look but went running to that Ivy League fuck as soon as he flashed his trust fund your way.” His words were clipped and cold.
Her voice raised a couple octaves. “It wasn’t like that.”
“How was it, then?” Hudson’s gaze was rock-steady as he stared into her flushed face, her gaping mouth. “You sure as hell had no problem telling me no. Leads me to believe you have an affinity for spreading your legs if the price is right.”
Alessandra’s pupils dilated. For a split second she was stunned silent.
That’s when he saw it coming.
Her palm opened and her hand traveled through the air. Hudson’s body fully engaged, his weight shifting from one foot to the other, and in a flash of movement he caught her wrist and hauled her against him.
She glared back at him, her chest rising and falling. He knew he should push her away, send her out the door with his check and never bother with her again. But she stayed in his arms, her fiery gaze almost daring him to make the next move.
He slid his mouth over hers, thrusting his tongue between her lips, and a deep, primitive sound vibrated in the back of his throat. He was a selfish bastard for taking her like this, but he couldn’t let her leave without having a taste. Her breath was sweet and the scent of her went straight to his thickening cock.
Alessandra shoved against his shoulders but Hudson held her in place, tightening the arm banded around her waist and fisting his hand into her hair. As if a sigh of relief, her resistance dissolved. Her purse dropped to the floor with a thud and her hands found their way around his neck and into his hair, pulling on the dark waves.
He groaned into her mouth. Goddamn, he wanted her to pull harder.
Hudson deepened the kiss, exploring her mouth in lush, firm strokes. His heart pounded and his muscles flexed with restraint. She was delicate and thin against his powerful frame and his body was aware of every soft curve. The contrasts between them extended far beyond the physical. If she was the hottest summer, then he was a stage-five hurricane altering everything in its path.
His hand shifted, splaying his fingers on her ass and urging her against him. God, he wanted her in a way he’d never wanted any other woman, and his cock was pounding, ready to take.
To own.
After all those years of wondering and wanting, he was going to have her, and there wasn’t going to be anything slow or gentle about it.
In a surge of power that roared through his body, Hudson lifted her, and with their mouths still fused, laid her out on his couch. Leveraging over her with his knee pressed into the rich leather and his elbow flush with the cushions, his body lowered, stretching over hers. His hand gripped the back of her knee, curling her leg around his waist. The slit of her burgundy dress fell open and he pressed between her thighs, hissing at the contact he’d been craving. The feel of her beneath him was everything it had been ten years ago; hot, passionate, and so fucking good.
He took her mouth again, kissing her deep and long. As her tongue slid over his, Hudson’s hips rolled with fluidity, massaging the thick ridge of his erection against her sex. The rhythm was deliberate and inexorable.
Allie moaned and her hips tilted up to meet his, responding to his every touch.
“Christ . . . you’re killing me.” He dragged his open mouth down Alessandra’s throat to the deep V of her wrap dress, his lips relentless in their pursuit of her skin. Irritation burned through him at the clothes between them. Lacking the patience to fully undress her, he wrenched open the fabric, exposing perfect breasts covered in black lace.
His breath caught. “Fucking hell. You’re beautiful.” He traced the edges of her bra with his fingertips before palming her breast. The weight was heavy and full in his hand. Lowering his head, he brushed his lips across the rough lace, then tugged her straining nipple between his teeth. A soft gasp escaped her lips.
Her hands raked over his back, pulling him closer as he continued his barrage against her senses. He yanked the lacy cup down and sucked the taut peak into his mouth. Shit, she tasted fantastic. And he bet even better once his tongue was thrusting inside her until she fell apart against his lips.
The sound of a phone ringing ripped through their heavy breathing like a lightning strike.
Alessandra tensed beneath him.
“Ignore it.” He captured her mouth again in slow, teasing licks and she parted her lips, inviting him back in. He had her. She was right there with him.
Ring two.
For the love of fucking God.
“Stop.” Her head arched back. She was breathless, her lips swollen from his merciless kisses.

Ann Marie Walker writes steamy contemporary romance and is co-author of the Chasing Fire series (Remind Me, Release Me, Reclaim Me) from Penguin Books. She and her writing partner Amy K. Rogers met online and instantly bonded over their love of alpha males, lemon drop martinis and British supermodel David Gandy. You can find her on twitter as @AnnMarie_Walker.

CONTACT ANN MARIE:


Amy K. Rogers writes contemporary romance and is co-author of the Chasing Fire series (Remind Me, Release Me, Reclaim Me) from Penguin Books. She and her writing partner Ann Marie Walker met online and instantly bonded over their love of alpha males, martinis and British supermodel David Gandy. You can find her on twitter as @Amy_KRogers

CONTACT AMY:

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