Sunday, September 9, 2012

Illegal cigars. Mistaken identity. Heated passion on a cold stormy night.


Twin brothers. One woman. Is she in love with the right one?
David Rutland has spent a lifetime covering for his errant twin brother and making things right. No more. Time for the irresponsible womanizer to grow up and face the music. But David isn't prepared for his world to be rocked when he meets the beautiful redhead who mistakes him for his missing brother. David doesn't know what's worse, deceiving his brother or deceiving this woman he's waited his entire life to find.

Gabriella Santori knows the meaning of a rock and a hard place. Lured by the big tipping Damien Rutland to save cigar bands for him at the cigar lounge where she works, she eventually realizes he's up to no good. She decides she's had enough and arranges a meeting to tell him, but she's taken back by the difference in him. He's not the creepy, macho, unnerving customer from the cigar lounge and before she knows it, she's smitten.

When Gabriella later discovers she's pregnant and learns that Damien is missing, she enlists David's help out of desperation. As the family waits for news of Damien's whereabouts, Gabriella can't help falling in love with the wrong brother...or is it? Must David forego the love of his life because of his twin's irresponsibility? And will they ever find his missing brother?

Excerpt 1:

“Don't go out there!”

Startled by her coworker's outburst, Gabriella slid to a halt, her hand poised on the swinging door leading to the smoking lounge.

“Why not? I have to start my shift.”

Ruthy hurried forward, her hand at her throat as though holding back the words. “There's an investigator asking a lot of questions. He's already grilled the rest of us but he doesn't know you're here. If you lay low he should be done and out of here soon.”

“Questions? About what?”

“Illegal cigars,” she whispered. “He said someone filed a complaint.”

Gabriella felt the blood drain from her face and the flesh on her scalp crawl like Medusa's. She had a pretty good idea what this was all about and who it involved.
“Did he mention any names?”

“No, but if you ask me, it's that guy with the ponytail, Damien. That evil name always gives me the creeps. I know you said he tips big, but watch your step.”
Yeah. Good advice.

The last thing Gabriella wanted to see again was the inside of a jail cell. She'd worked too hard to put that all behind her.

Ruthy hung up her apron, punched her timecard and left through the back door after one more warning glance.

Gabriella nudged the swinging door just enough to catch a glimpse of the smoking lounge and its customers. Most of the usuals were there: businessmen, a few politicians. Then she spotted the tall thin man in the beige overcoat who stood out from the regulars because he wasn't drinking or smoking. Instead, he scanned the room while jotting notes as he interviewed a patron.

She eased the door shut and leaned against the wall with a hand to her pounding chest. No matter how much Damien paid her, she had to put an end to it now. She couldn't afford to lose everything she'd worked so hard for, especially her self-esteem.

Nothing was going to stop her.

Excerpt 2:


After hanging up, David tossed the message slip in the center of Damien's desk pad.
“Here. You got a call from Gabriella Santori.”
“Who?” Damien stared at the note a moment, his face a mixture of confusion and wariness. Then, an evil grin hitched up one side of his mouth. “Oh, yeah. Gabriella. What'd she want?”
“Don't know. She said it was personal and she'd call you back.”
“Hmmm.” Damien appeared expectant, then turned his attention back to his desk after loosening the knot of his tie.
“Who is she?” David couldn't help himself, he had to ask.
“Just a waitress, or whatever you call those women at the smoking lounge. She serves drinks, passes out cigars, and is nice to the customers. Nobody special.”
Like hell. Damien's nonchalant, careless answer completely negated the opinion David had already formed. How could she be nobody special when she'd made a lasting impression on him? No, she was special all right. David just had to find out why.
“And I bet you were nice right back.”
“Hey, I admit I never pass up an opportunity. We had a few laughs, a little fun--if you know what I mean.” He winked and shook his hand in a cool down gesture. “She's quite a looker. Have you ever had a redhead, Dave? Whew, they're hot stuff. You should try one sometime. Maybe I'll introduce you.”
David shook his head. He couldn't believe they were brothers, never mind identical twins. Oh, sure, they looked exactly alike with the exception of Damien's stupid ponytail, but aside from that, they didn't have one single thing in common.
Everyone took an instant liking to the outgoing Damien. David was the one they called sensible. Damien was the one who jumped in to try something first. David calculated every move before making a decision. Damien was a rebel at heart, reckless in life and love. David usually stood by, watched out for him, cleaned up after him, smoothed the feathers he ruffled.
It had been a life-long job and at thirty-six he'd had his fill of it. He wasn't going to be responsible for Damien anymore.
“No thanks. I can get my own women.”
“Yeah, right, like they're lining up outside the door. You really should get a life, you know.”
“If you mean like yours, forget it.”
“Dave, when are you going to realize there's more to life than work?”
“Maybe when you realize there's more to life than play.”
“I do, that's why I have to leave tonight.”
“What do you mean, leave?”
“I'm heading south for a few days, to make some sales calls.”
“What are you talking about?” Irritation crept into David's controlled voice. “There are no sales trips planned this month. When did this come up?”
Damien shuffled things around on his desk, his usual stalling tactic. “Uh, just this morning. Something came up that I need to take care of personally. It'll only be a few days.”
David took a few steps forward, his fingers clenched painfully into his palms. “I need you here, Damien. This flu epidemic is killing us. We're working with a skeleton crew in the factory, all our office workers are out and with Dad still in Florida, I can't handle everything by myself.”
Ha! He almost laughed out loud at his own absurd remark. He'd been handling it for five years, since his father's heart attack. What possible difference could Damien's absence make, except give David one less problem to worry over?
He was about to explain how the woodworking company was the responsibility of both of them, how Dad counted on them both, when the phone rang again. David grabbed at the distraction.
“Rutland Woodworks.”
“Hi, um, David, right?”
It was her.
“Yes.” David's stomach tightened and he stood a little straighter.
“This is Gabriella Santori again. I'm sorry to bother you, but maybe I should leave a message for Damien after all since I don't know when I'll have a chance to call again.”
David bit his tongue while glancing toward Damien who didn't seem the least bit interested in the call. If he could just keep her talking for a little while longer...


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