Now and Always
Hearts and Haunts Book 1
by C.J. Burright
Date Published: 01-10-2023
Publisher: Totally Bound Publishing
Romance may not be all that awakens while two best friends renovate a mansion rumored to be haunted.
If you kiss your best friend…
Halloween-loving Ren needs a new job. The only problem? The sole accountant opening in her small town requires construction experience, which are skills she lacks. Luckily, her best friend Leo— sexy, grumpy and completely off limits— is a construction hotshot. Their relationship is perfect as is, and, despite the intense chemistry, Ren refuses to ruin it with romance. Leo agrees to teach her, with one condition— she must live on site with him… and somehow survive the temptation.
You’ d better be sure…
Skeptic, sword-swinging Leo has loved Ren since she mistook him for a hardware employee in the plunger section two years ago. While he took his time winning her trust, she caged him in the friend zone. He’ s done hiding his feelings, and living together— working, sleeping, playing— at the Gothic mansion he’ s renovating will convince her that best friends make the best lovers.
It’ s meant to be forever.
Ren resolves to resist Leo, even if he bends every rule. Discovering the mansion’ s secrets— and lingering spirits, no matter what Leo claims— offers distraction enough. But with her defenses splintering, one kiss is all it takes to shatter every boundary, one night of passion to believe in happily ever after… and one crumbling letter of unrequited love to awaken ghosts forgotten. If Ren and Leo can’ t piece together the past for two lost souls, they might lose more than their hearts.
Hours later, midnight darkness lured Karen from some dream she couldn’t remember. She sat up and scrubbed her fingers through her hair. Moonlight spilled through the windows and shimmered over walls, softening the boarded-up hole across the room. The draped furniture slouched in the corner like fallen curtains. She’d left her door ajar after learning it didn’t latch right, another project added to her learn-to-do list, and it remained open a wedge.
A silhouette darkened the doorway, and her pulse jumped. Leo eased past the door, shirtless in the shadows. He looked at her, and his burning gaze stole her breath.
Without saying a word, he padded toward the bed, his bare feet silent on the rug, black boxers clinging to his muscular thighs.
With Leo, she never worried about appearances, but the silky tank top she’d worn to bed left zero to the imagination. Her face warmed. He’d have to be blind to miss how he affected her physically.
Something had to be wrong. He wouldn’t enter a woman’s bedroom without permission or knocking, not even if she happened to be his best friend. But the fire in his eyes erased all words from her brain, and when he crawled onto the bed on all fours, holding her gaze, she melted. Holy hell, he was a masterpiece, the powerful lines of his body hypnotic in the muted light.
As he approached with animal grace, she couldn’t react, lulled by the skewed sanity of the darkness and fantasy coming to life before her eyes. Straddling her legs over the blankets, he didn’t stop until he planted his palms on each side of her hips, caging her. Heat radiated from his bare skin, easing the chill of the air on her naked shoulders and arms. His breath brushed her lips.
“What are you doing, Leo?” The words hardly counted, more a rasp in her throat.
Leaning in, he bypassed her mouth and nuzzled her ear. “Tasting you.” He nibbled her lobe and tugged with his teeth, then licked the sting away. “Hmm. Luscious.”
A shiver trembled through her as the stubble on his cheek scraped her jaw and he pressed his lips to the sensitive spot beneath her ear. She fisted the sheet to keep from touching him. She should stop him, push him away, tell him to leave. But he trailed his lips to her shoulder, and the thought spun away, beyond her power. Her eyes closed of their own accord.
Denying the touch she’d dreamed of for so long was impossible. The fact that Leo was her best friend slithered out of reach. He rested his hot hand on her hip, and the magic of his mouth killed everything except desire.
“I’ve waited too long for you, Ren.” He sat back on his heels, his knees spread on either side of her thighs, and cupped her face.
“Far too long.”
About the Author
Once upon a time, a girl with flat hobbit feet dreamed of adventures in the woods with an elven hero, fighting off orcs and saving magical rings. All grown up now, C.J. Burright resides in Oregon (at least she got the trees).
While she faces her duties at the law office day job, she avoids writing legal thrillers and instead turns toward romance—contemporary (sometimes with a supernatural flair), paranormal or fantasy. With a 5th Dan Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do, it’s no surprise she prefers feisty heroines who aren’t afraid to jump into the fight. Her slivers of spare time are spent working out, gardening, playing the latest Assassin’s Creed, and rooting on the Seattle Mariners, always with music. She shares a house with her husband (not elven, alas, but a fine alternative) and a devoted cat herd while missing her daughter from afar. C. J. is represented by Brittany Booker of The Booker Albert Literary Agency.